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Toto pull Sony Music into digital royalties debate

By | Published on Tuesday 28 February 2012

Sony Music

Good news for Sony Music, the major label too now has a potentially devastating digital royalties lawsuit all of its own, to do with what it likes -put it in an in-tray, pin it to a wall, share it with family and friends, maybe even shred it.

Not that doing any of that will make it go away. Though wishful thinking and some decent legal representation might; Sony, after all, has successfully fought off one of these before.

So yes, Toto have sued Sony over the royalties they are being paid on download sales. As much previously reported, many heritage artists are paid a larger royalty on licensing revenue than record sales. Record companies are treating downloads as the latter, but some artists reckon they should be treated as licensing income.

The Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick both sued Sony on this very issue a few years back and lost. But then early Eminem collaborators FBT Productions successfully sued Universal for the higher pay out on digital revenue, and in the wake of that ruling a plethora of old timers have filed their own litigation, hoping for a bigger cut of the loot.

Universal insists the ruling in the FBT case was unique to the production outfit’s contract, and all four majors will be hoping that’s correct, because if the US courts now decide there is a more general precedent on digital royalties, it will cost the big record companies millions.

Rob Zombie, Chuck D and the estate of Rick James are among those suing Universal on this issue, while Sister Sledge have targeted Warner, and Kenny Rogers has included the digital dispute in a more wide-reaching royalties lawsuit against EMI. Toto’s legal action, filed with the New York court yesterday, brings Sony back into the action.

Sony Music is yet to comment.