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Shep Pettibone sues Warner over withheld Vogue royalties

By | Published on Wednesday 12 April 2017

Madonna - Vogue

Producer Shep Pettibone is suing Warner Music Group, claiming that the company is withholding recording and publishing royalties he is due. The money is seemingly being held back in order to recoup legal fees spent on a legal battle over a sample in Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, which Pettibone produced. He and Madonna won the sample case last year.

As previously reported, Pettibone and Madonna were accused by US company VMG of illegally using a brief sample of a 1970s recording called ‘Love Break’ on ‘Vogue’. Last year, the long-running case concluded when an appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that said that, at less than a quarter of a second long, it was unlikely that the average listener would even notice that the sample had been used.

However, the appeals court did overturn the lower court’s decision to make VMG pay the other side’s legal costs. With Warner having paid for the lawyers, Pettibone’s new lawsuit says the company is now attempting to claw back over $730,000 from his royalties. Deductions, he says, which are not permitted under his contracts with the mini-major.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pettibone alleges that Warner Music and its music publisher Warner/Chappell “have admittedly withheld and failed to pay Pettibone royalties owed to plaintiff for its defence of the VMG Salsoul lawsuit despite plaintiff’s demand that they pay these royalties to him, and despite giving them notice of breach”.

Warner has said, according to the lawsuit, that it is entitled to deduct royalties in this manner due to an indemnification agreement with Pettibone. However, Pettibone says that this clause does not apply to claims such as VMG’s, which have been dismissed.

Suing for breach of contract, Pettibone wants court clarification that he is correct on this latter point. He also wants the withheld royalties to be paid over to him, which he says come to more than $500,000.