Tuesday, US District Judge Christina Snyder issued a ruling that entitled Dr. Dre to 100% of all digital royalties from The Chronic. In 2010, Dre filed a lawsuit against WIDEawake/Death Row Records alleging that he had been grossly undercompensated for his critically acclaimed album. The album sold well over 3 million copies, and during the 2010 suit, Dre’s attorneys were seeking upwards of $75,000.
According to reports by the Associated Press, a 1996 exit agreement between Dre and the original Death Row called for Dr. Dre to receive 18% royalties on music he created while at Death Row and gave him extensive authority over how the songs were used. Judge Snyder ruled that when WIDEawake purchased Death Row’s assets in 2009, they were restricted to selling the assets in the original format in which they appeared. Of course, all of the early Death Row albums were created in the early-to-mid nineties prior to the invention of iTunes and other digital licensing services.
“For years, Death Row Records forgot about Dre when they continued to distribute his music digitally and combined his hits with weaker Death Row tracks in an attempt to elevate the stature of their other artists,” Dr. Dre’s attorney Howard King wrote in a prepared statement. “We are gratified that the federal court has unambiguously declared that Death Row has no right to engage in such tactics, and must hold all proceeds from these illicit distributions in trust for our client.”