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EMI Publishing faces new lawsuit on foreign royalties over Daydream Believer

By | Published on Monday 6 October 2014

EMI Music Publishing

The Sony/ATV-controlled EMI Music Publishing is facing another lawsuit on the issue of fees taken by the music publishing major’s foreign subsidiaries. The movement of money around global music rights firms, and the commissions taken along the way, is an old favourite of artist and songwriter managers, many of whom suspect the process could be used to short-change their clients.

The latest lawsuit on the issue comes from the widow of songwriter John Stewart, a one-time member of folk-pop outfit the Kingston Trio, though in music publishing terms the fact he wrote the Monkees’ hit ‘Daydream Believer’ is probably most important. Stewart signed a publishing deal with Screen Gems-Columbia Music in 1967, which was subsequently acquired by EMI.

Stewart’s widow claims that under that deal, her late husband was due 50% of royalties generated outside the US, after any fees were taken by regional sub-publishers. But ‘Daydream Believer’ is, in the main, repped outside North America by other EMI Publishing subsidiaries, which then take 50% of the money before handing the rest over to the firm’s US division, which pays 50% to Stewart. However, says the lawsuit, where a regional rep is another branch of EMI there should be no additional fees taken.

As previously reported, the family of Duke Ellington has been fighting a very similar lawsuit against EMI based on the same dispute. In that case the publisher won at first instance, with a judge ruling that EMI subsidiaries established since the original contract was signed could charge fees as monies moved through the system, even though they are all ultimately part of the same business. Ellington’s grandson is currently appealing.

Legal reps for Stewart reckon she could be due $450,000 in lost royalties if successful in the case. EMI is yet to comment on the litigation.