When the Supreme Court refused to hear Universal Music Group’s appeal of a previous 9th Circuit Court ruling in favor of F.B.T. Productions and Eminem last month, it opened the door for artists signed to similar deals to also seek digital royalty increases. The estate of Rick James has started the process of getting digital royalty rates increased from the previous rate of 12% to 50% by also filing a lawsuit against Universal Music Group.
“By this lawsuit, Plaintiff seeks to compel UMG to account to and pay its other recording artists and music producers (i.e., those not directly involved in the FBT litigation) their rightful share of the licensing income paid to UMG for downloads and mastertones of the recorded music licensed by UMG to these entities,” the suit read.
After initially stating the ruling would not set a precedent, representatives from Universal now say the ruling applies only to the language of the specific contract between it an FBT Productions. Most current artists are locked in at the 12% rate, but artists who signed contracts prior to the advent of digital downloads may be able to benefit from the case without setting foot in a courtroom if a legal precedent is set.
“In assessing and watching the Eminem case, the original judge found for the production company and declared these were indeed licenses, and said it’s a matter of law unless there’s specific language in the contract to address this,” James’ family estate manager Jeff Jampo told Billboard magazine. “Many entertainment industry attorneys have been lobbying about this issue for years.”