updated 08:40 pm EDT, Tue April 3, 2012
Weird Al claims Sony underpaying on Internet music
"Weird Al" Yankovic accelerated a trend that may see musicians get better pay for their Internet content after suing Sony Music Entertainment for at least $5 million. The suit, filed in New York City on Friday, followed a similar pattern to the Eminem dispute, where the Straight Outta Lynwood producer and his company Ear Booker alleged that Sony had deprived him of sales revenue at iTunes and elsewhere by counting them as sales rather than licenses, which would give him a 50 percent cut of what the publisher receives. He also argued that fiscal stake in YouTube Sony has in return for its content deal also means he should get a proportionate amount of money for plays on his videos.
Peer-to-peer settlement money from cases against app providers like KaZaA also didn't end up going to musicians, the lawsuit stated. Ear Booker had conducted an audit that had revealed the gap across multiple sources.
Yankovic may stand a good chance of winning the case based on precedent. In Eminem's case, the federal Supreme Court upheld a view that his contract gave him license-level royalties for digital music, not the 12 percent normally limited to physical copies. Just in March, Sony chose to settle a class action lawsuit for $8 million over similar terms.
The issue of digital revenue has become important over the changing nature of the sales themselves. While 12 percent was a relatively large amount when CDs dominated and prices were typically $15 to $20, the drop to $10 for a typical album and the much wider availability of by-the-track sales has reduced the amount they might take in. Streaming service like Spotify and Rdio have reinforced this further, as the revenues for each play are lower even relative to pay-to-own stores. [via New York Times]