Sony Files to Dismiss Toto Lawsuit

Dispute over digital licensing royalties

toto
C Brandon/Redferns
David Paich, Joseph Williams, Steve Lukather, Simon Phillips, Nathan East and Steve Pocaro of Toto perform in London.
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Sony BMG has filed a motion to dismiss a suit brought by the band Toto, who are seeking unpaid royalties from digital sales, Billboard reports.

As noted in February, the initial suit alleged that Sony failed to pay the band, best known for their hit song "Africa," 50 percent of net receipts from licensing their music to third parties (such as iTunes) that sell downloads of their work. Toto was included in Sony's recent $8 million settlement over digital music revenue, along with Cheap Trick, the Allman Brothers Band, and others, but according to a statement from the music company, the band is "dissatisfied with the bargain that it struck."

Sony's motion to dismiss includes an alleged 2002 agreement between the parties over a new set of royalty rates for online retail. Its primary focus, however, is the semantic difference between the terms "license," "sale" and "lease." Toto is currently seeking damages in excess of $605,000 plus interest and full accounting and legal fees.

It was the Allman Brothers case that brought "leasing" into the conversation, with the band alleging that Sony leased the bands catalog to download providers. Now Toto is arguing that "lease" is synonymous with "license," while Sony – with help from the Oxford English Dictionary, Black's Law Dictionary and Webster's Third New International Dictionary – begs to differ.

Two weeks ago, the Temptations sued Universal Music Group for millions of dollars in revenue for downloads and ringtones. Artists including Kenny Rogers, Peter Frampton and Public Enemy have also filed similar suits against their respective labels. All such cases come on the heals of a lawsuit Eminem filed, and won, against Universal Music Group last year, which set the licensing precedent.