James Taylor sues record label for $2m
- 16 September 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Singer-songwriter James Taylor is suing Warner Bros records for $2m (£1.2m), claiming he is not paid fairly when the company sells his songs as downloads.
He contends he should receive a higher royalty rate for downloads than for physical CD sales.
Similar cases have been launched by The Temptations, Eminem and Kenny Rogers.
Taylor, known for songs like Carolina In My Mind and his cover of You've Got A Friend, was with the Warner Bros label from 1969 to 1979.
When he left, the singer signed a "termination and settlement agreement", which allowed him to audit the company's accounts.
In his complaint, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court late last week, he says he has discovered several discrepancies.
These include what he says are the unauthorised use of his songs on compilation albums, and underpayment for overseas sales.
But his biggest complaint is over the sale of songs on sites like Amazon and iTunes.
Warner Bros treats digital downloads as the same as physical sales, but Taylor argues the label is really licensing its tracks to the download stores.
That is because the label signs a single licensing deal with the store - after which the songs are on sale in perpetuity - instead of having to continually press, distribute and market CDs.
The difference is significant, as most recording contracts give the artist around 10% of the revenue for sales, but as much as 60% for a licence.
Taylor's royalty rate for licences is 50%. According to the court documents, Warner Bros denies he should be eligible for this higher rate.
The precedent for this case was set in 2010 when FBT Productions, which owns Eminem's publishing, won a ruling that the rapper's digital sales should be treated under the licensing provisions of his contract.
Since then, the likes of Peter Frampton, Chuck D, Sister Sledge, Rob Zombie, The Knack's Bruce Gary and the estate of Rick James have all filed similar complaints.
Taylor has hired lawyer Richard Busch for his case. He has previously represented Frampton, Eminem and The Knack in royalty cases.