Cheap Trick, Allman Brothers Suing Sony For Higher Digital Royalties - InformationWeek

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5/1/2006
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Cheap Trick, Allman Brothers Suing Sony For Higher Digital Royalties

If granted class-action status, the case could involve thousands of artists signed to Sony since 1962 and millions of dollars.

Two rock bands are suing Sony Music and seeking class action, claiming the company short-changed artists out of millions of dollars in digital royalties.

Cheap Trick and the Allman Brothers Band filed a lawsuit in New York last week, claiming that Sony continues charging distribution fees for downloaded songs. The bands claim that they deserve greater royalties for digital downloads because downloads should be considered licensing, not distribution.

"Sony Music is presently engaged in a widespread attempt to underpay its recording artists; with the technological advancements in the music industry, where many people download songs to their iPods and other portable devices, it is essential that artists receive the royalty income to which they are entitled," one of the bands' attorneys, Brian Caplan, said through a prepared statement.

Sony has not issued a statement on the issue and a representative for the company did not immediately return calls Monday.

The lawsuit argues that artists are entitled to about 30 cents per song rather than the 4.5 cents they get from physical sales because of publishing, breakage and distribution deductions. If granted class action status, the case could open up to Sony artists with deals signed since 1962. That is likely to include thousands of artists and millions of dollars.

A decision against Sony could radically alter the landscape for recording artists earning their wages in a digital age.

Actors and broadcasters are dealing with a similar issue through their unions, now that more content is available through iPods and mobile devices.

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