Estate of Rick James Sues Universal Music Group

Estate of Rick James Sues Universal Music Group

Lawyers of the legendary singer file suit for increase of digital royalties.

Published April 5, 2011

In the wake of the Supreme Court dismissing Universal Music Group’s appeal of a Ninth Circuit Court ruling to up the digital royalty rates of F.B.T. Productions and Eminem last month, the estate of R&B/soul legend Rick James has filed a lawsuit against the label for their own increase.

Lawyers for the deceased musician are asking for a raise from 12 percent to 50 percent. James’s estate set the suit in motion after a federal appellate court recently ok’d a rate boost for Eminem and his F.B.T. Productions. In 2004, the rapper and his production company filed a lawsuit against Aftermath Records and Universal Music Group for 50-50 split of the alleged $2.5 million Em’s digital downloads made between 2003 and 2008. The court ruled in the MC’s favor in a 2009 appeal.

Now the singer/songwriter’s estate wants a similar share of the profits made on digital music retailers like iTunes.

“By this lawsuit, the Plaintiff seeks to compel UMG to account to and pay its other recording artists and music producers (i.e., those not directly involved in the F.B.T. litigation) their rightful share of the licensing income paid to UMG for downloads and mastertones of the recorded music licensed by UMG to these entities,” the suit read.

Most new artist who signed deals after the explosion of digital music sales are locked into the 12 percent rate, but James and other seasoned artist may have a case to fight for a bigger royalty share.

“In assessing and watching the Eminem case, the original judge found for the production company and declared these were indeed licenses, and said it’s a matter of law unless there’s specific language in the contract to address this,” James’ family estate manager Jeff Jampo told Billboard magazine. “Many entertainment industry attorneys have been lobbying about this issue for years.”




(Photo: Getty Images)

Written by Rondell Conway


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