Michael Jackson Sues Motown

Pop star seeking royalties, masters from early recordings

May 12, 2003 12:00 AM ET

Michael Jackson, reportedly in serious financial trouble, is attempting to put some money back in the bank by suing his former label Motown Records and its parent company Universal Music Group.

Jackson claims that Motown, the label he signed with in 1969, breached a contract dated January 1980 that required the label to pay him royalties for certain pre-1976 recordings made by Jackson as a solo artist and the Jackson 5. In exchange for those royalties, Jackson had agreed to waive his rights to other pre-1976 recordings. The 1980 contract was actually a settlement agreement stemming from lawsuits filed in 1975 and 1976 by the members of the Jackson 5 against Motown over accounting and contractual obligations.

"Neither Motown nor its successors in interest have provided Jackson with a single accounting or paid Jackson a single dollar in royalties," reads the suit. "Jackson therefore seeks not only a complete and accurate accounting and full payment of all royalties due and owing from Motown, but also rescission of the 1980 agreement."

Jackson -- now on Sony's Epic Records, which he's also been battling in the courts -- is also asking for the rescission of his underlying recording contract with Motown and a judgment wherein he is given back his rights, title and interest in all master recordings and musical compositions that he made with the label as a solo artist and as a member of the Jackson 5.

In terms of money, Jackson is seeking the return of the $100,000 (plus interest) from the 1980 settlement agreement as well as an amount in royalties to be determined at trial after a full survey of Motown's books.

Reports over the past few months have speculated everything from Jackson being broke to Jackson trying to sell his California "Neverland" ranch to offset his debts. Jackson's latest album, 2001's Invincible, sold approximately 2 million copies, a colossal failure considering the album cost close to $30 million to make.

Representatives for Jackson and Universal could not be reached at press time.

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