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Doobie Brother joins digital royalties litigation party

By | Published on Wednesday 23 May 2012

Michael Mcdonald

Another day, another digital royalties dispute. This time its one of the Doobie Brothers who is suing a major label for a bigger cut of download revenue.

As much previously reported, the major labels treat downloads as record sales, and pay artists the same royalty on iTunes revenue as they would on CDs. But many artists with pre-internet contracts that don’t mention downloading say that revenue generated by digital sales should be treated as licensing income, because it stems from licensing deals with companies like iTunes rather than the provision of records to retailers, which involves more risk for the label. It’s an important distinction because under most record deals the artist gets much bigger cut of licensing revenue that record sales money.

All four majors are now being sued on this issue after Eminem collaborators FBT Productions won a legal action against Universal. And Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald, who is suing Warner Music, is being represented by the same lawyer as FBT, Richard S Busch, who has also filed digital royalty litigation on behalf of Peter Frampton and Kenny Rogers.

Though the McDonald lawsuit has an extra interesting element to it, according to Billboard. Among the allegations made is that the majors have conspired together to pay all artists the lower royalty on digital revenue, because if one record company paid the higher rate it would put an obligation on the others to follow suit. Whether there is any actual evidence of collusion on this issue isn’t clear.