Business News Digital Royalties Timeline Labels & Publishers Legal

The Motels file latest digital royalties lawsuit in the US

By | Published on Tuesday 3 April 2012

The Motels

These are becoming so frequent now, very soon they won’t be news at all. An early 80s new wave band called The Motels, led by singer Martha Davis, are the latest heritage act to file legal proceedings over the way their former record company is paying out artist royalties on download sales.

As much previously reported, where recording contracts make no mention of downloads, the major record companies treat revenue from services like iTunes as if it was record sales money, which allows them to pay a lower cut to their acts. But an increasing number of heritage artists say that download money should be treated as licensing income, where they would normally get 25-35% more of the loot.

Universal Music is facing the most lawsuits on this issue at the moment, after losing in the one case that went properly to court, pursued by early Eminem collaborators FBT Productions. Using the ruling in that case as precedent, Rob Zombie, Chuck D, the estate of Rick James and others are now suing the major for a bigger cut of the download revenue their recordings generate. But the other majors are affected too. Toto and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic have sued Sony, Sister Sledge and Tower Of Power Warner, and now The Motels join Kenny Rogers in suing EMI.

EMI is yet to comment on the digital royalty lawsuits filed against it. As previously reported, Universal insists the FBT case does not set a general precedent, while Sony is hoping to placate its heritage artists with an offer of a 3% increase in the cut they receive of download revenue. Meanwhile behind the scenes talks between labels and key heritage acts are ongoing.