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Warner faces new digital royalties lawsuit

By | Published on Friday 30 March 2012

Warner Music

American R&B outfit Tower Of Power, or TOP, who have been performing for over four decades though had most commercial success in the 1970s, are the latest heritage act to join the long list of artists now suing a major record company for a bigger cut of digital royalties.

As much previously reported, for those artists with pre-internet record contracts that make no mention of downloads, record labels have treated iTunes-style revenue as record sales money, paying artists a relatively modest share of the loot. But many acts say download revenue should be treated as licensing income, from which most artists are contractually due a much bigger cut. Eminem collaborators FBT Productions successfully sued Universal on this issue, and now a long line of veteran artists are joining the litigation queue in a bid to secure a higher cut of digital monies too.

Tower Of Power have been signed to Sony labels since the mid-1970s, though their most successful recordings from the previous few years came out on Warner Bros, and it is Warner Music they are suing.

It’s the band’s founding and most consistent members Emilio Castillo and Stephen Kupka who are going legal, and their attorney told reporters yesterday: “From the information we have received, it appears Warner Music has allegedly failed to pay Tower Of Power and its other artists the amount owed on the licensing of songs for digital downloads and ringtones. Emilio and Stephen are bringing this action to ensure all artists are properly paid for their work”.

They aren’t the first Warner artists to sue on this issue – Sister Sledge began legal proceedings last month – though the lawsuits against Universal and Sony have got more coverage. As previously reported, Sony has offered a deal to its heritage artists in settlement of a class action brought against it by a number of aging artists a few years back, though it remains to be seen if the courts approve that deal (which would give artists 3% more of download revenue) and if artists then accept it. Toto, who sued Sony last month, just before details of that deal were revealed, are seemingly still planning on pushing for more through the courts.

Warner is yet to comment about the digital royalty lawsuits it is now fighting.