Uni­ver­sal set­tles with mu­si­cians for past roy­al­ties

The China Post - - ARTS -

The world’s largest mu­sic group Uni­ver­sal on Tues­day an­nounced a US$11.5 mil­lion set­tle­ment with artists who al­leged un­fairly low roy­al­ties since the start of dig­i­tal down­loads.

The de­ci­sion ends for now a long-run­ning dis­pute in the mu­sic busi­ness as the two other record la­bel con­glom­er­ates, Warner Mu­sic and Sony Mu­sic, ear­lier reached sim­i­lar set­tle­ments.

Mu­si­cians in­clud­ing Chuck D of Public En­emy — the clas­sic hiphop group whose songs in­cluded “Fight the Power” — and metal band Whites­nake had sued Uni- ver­sal in 2011 over its for­mula for com­pen­sa­tion.

La­bels have clas­si­fied dig­i­tal down­loads on sites such as iTunes as “sales” — sim­i­lar to CDs or vinyl, in which artists gen­er­ally earn around 15 per­cent from sales.

The plain­tiffs said that down­loads, which do not re­quire the la­bel to man­u­fac­ture a phys­i­cal prod­uct, were more ac­cu­rately “li­censes” in which artists earn half of the rev­enue.

Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Group, a Cal­i­for­nia-based unit of French con­glom­er­ate Vivendi, stood by its po­si­tion as it an­nounced the set­tle­ment.

“Although we are con­fi­dent we ap­pro­pri­ately paid roy­al­ties on dig­i­tal down­loads and ad­hered to the terms of con­tracts, we are pleased to am­i­ca­bly re­solve this mat­ter and avoid con­tin­ued legal costs,” it said in a state­ment.

Len Simon, a lawyer for the plain­tiffs, called the set­tle­ment “a fair res­o­lu­tion of this con­tro­versy.”

Of the US$11.5 mil­lion in the set­tle­ment, around US$3 mil­lion will go to legal costs.

Artists can ap­ply for a share of the re­main­ing fund if they had a con­tract be­tween Jan­uary 1965 and April 30, 2004.

The artists will also en­joy an ad- di­tional 10 per­cent on fu­ture pay­ments from down­loads or phone ring­tones.

The set­tle­ment also ap­plies to artists on Capitol Records, the cel­e­brated Los An­ge­les la­bel whose ros­ter has in­cluded The Bea­tles, Nat King Cole and Ra­dio­head.

Capitol Records is now part of the Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Group, which agreed to buy the la­bel’s Bri­tish par­ent EMI in 2011.

The set­tle­ment was an­nounced the same day that the global record­ing in­dus­try body IFPI an­nounced that money gen­er­ated from dig­i­tal mu­sic matched phys­i­cal sales’ rev­enue in 2014.

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