The Temptations are the latest act to file a class action lawsuit seeking unpaid royalties on digital downloads. The singing group had filed a suit against Universal Music Group in a California federal seeking millions of dollars in revenue for downloads and ringtones, claiming that these sales count as licenses, which entitles them to half of the net receipts.
The Temptations’ suit goes beyond their contract to cover other artists on the UMG roster with similar contracts, including James Brown, Eric Clapton, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, the Police and the Who. Contracts with different rates for physical sales and licenses were extremely common at major labels between 1976 and 2001.
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A lawsuit on behalf of Eminem last year set a precedent that digital sales count as a license rather than a traditional sale, as is the case with LPs and CDs. A number of other artists, including Peter Frampton, Toto, Public Enemy and Kenny Rogers, are also pursuing similar legal battles hoping to score unpaid royalties and improve their rate in the future. Sony recently paid an $8 million settlement to dismiss a class action lawsuit that included artists such as Cheap Trick, the Allman Brothers Band and the Youngbloods.