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Music royalties at heart of federal class action litigation

Asking someone if they know much about Rick Nelson is akin to asking the same question about Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison or other musical icons of a bygone era. If you're of a certain vintage, you've likely got some memories. If not ....

However, a recent media spotlight on Nelson is less about his personal history and music than it is about money, flat-out. Specifically, Nelson's estate has filed a federal lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment alleging bad faith in music-linked royalty distributions.

The bottom line goes like this. Nelson's heirs say that the artist - who still commands some popularity posthumously in foreign markets - is owed foreign streaming revenues based on a certain formula set forth in a contract with Sony.

In fact, Nelson's estate stresses that the same arrangement holds true for hundreds of thousands of other Sony-inked artists. The recent legal filing contends that Sony has been systematically ripping off all those individuals. Consequently, the plaintiffs seek class action certification.

In discussing the litigation, the publication Variety notes the central allegation that, following its collections of overseas money from its affiliates, Sony "assesses an intercompany charge before distributing royalties to artists." That levy - which is essentially a pure-profit mechanism for the company - allegedly takes away as much as 68% of the proceeds that are contractually due the artists.

We understand the claim and complexities well at the Los Angeles Law Offices of Barry K. Rothman, a long-tenured entertainment law firm. We note on our website that royalty calculations and rates entail "critical considerations."

Proven attorneys who routinely represent artists in broad-based entertainment matters can delve into those considerations and work to secure the best interests of their diverse and valued clients in every case.

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