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Brad Paisley lawsuit could have digital royalties dimension

By | Published on Tuesday 6 May 2014

Brad Paisley

The royalties dispute between Brad Paisley and Sony Music could join the big fat pile of American litigation focused on digital payments from labels to artists.

As previously reported, the country star recently filed new legal papers relating to a long-running dispute with Sony Music, claiming that the major has underpaid him by over $10 million over the last twelve years.

A previous attempt to claim allegedly unpaid royalties as far back as 2002 was dismissed after a judge ruled that a 2006 agreement between the artist and the label meant that the former could only dispute royalties paid as far back as 2011.

But in his new lawsuit Paisley claims that that 2006 agreement was dependent on Sony providing various specific documents which his people needed to do a royalty audit, and because those documents were allegedly never provided that part of his deal with the major is void.

But that was last week’s news. Over the weekend, Billboard noted the lawyer who is leading this new legal assault on the major music firm, that being Nashville-based Richard Busch, who worked for FBT Productions on the landmark digital royalties case in the US, and who is now repping 19 Entertainment in its legal battle over digital payments to various ‘American Idol’ alumni.

As much previously reported, there has been a lot of debate as to what cut of digital income labels should be paying to artists where record contracts – usually signed pre-iTunes – are ambiguous about such things. Labels tend to pass on small cuts to their artists when it comes to digital revenue, equating a download to a record sale, but many artists, managers and their lawyers argue that a higher ‘licensing’ split should be paid on all things digital.

The FBT Productions team successfully secured a high digital royalty from Universal on the early Eminem catalogue they have a stake in, and countless artists are now suing the majors using that case as precedent. Billboard reckons that Busch’s involvement in the Paisley case, coupled with requests in the new lawsuit for digital sales reports, means that dimension will soon be added to this legal battle, meaning the allegedly unpaid royalties the country singer will be seeking to claim could be much higher than the current $10 million.