Did Universal Music Try To Expense The Costs Of Eminem's Producers Suing Over Unpaid Royalties… Back To Eminem's Producers?

from the and-again-and-again dept

We were just discussing some of the details from Kenny Rogers’ lawsuit against EMI/Capitol Records which showed the many, many ways in which record labels avoided paying artists what they were owed… and now some more details have leaked in the very similar (but further along) case concerning Eminem’s royalties. You may recall that, back in 2010, Eminem’s producers, FBT Productions, won its case against Universal Music, for the first time establishing that iTunes sales should be counted as licenses rather than sales. This was important, because sales get a royalty rate that’s usually around 15%… but licenses get a royalty rate around 50%.

While Universal Music insisted that its deal with Eminem was unique and such a ruling wouldn’t apply to most other artists, plenty of other artists have been suing their labels (like Kenny Rogers above), and estimates of upwards of $2 billion in back royalties that the labels may have to pay out.

The Eminem case is back at the district court as they try to sort out just how much FBT is owed, and Eriq Gardner, over at THResq, got his hands on one of the audit reports put together by an expert for FBT. It only shows a limited range of years (July 2005 to December 31, 2009), but also shows (similar to the Rogers lawsuit) how the report turns up all sorts of other areas where Universal likely underpaid FBT.

As you can see, the audit shows $3.8 million owed for the missing royalties from iTunes downloads. But also of interest? FBT claims that it never received a cut of the YouTube settlement money — which many people had been wondering if it was ever going to go to the artists. Apparently not.

However, the most insane thing here may be the line at the bottom, in which it appears that Universal held back $2 million in a “legal hold.” Gardner notes that this is money held back to pay for this very lawsuit. This is classic record label economics. Everything that you do that costs money, they charge against the artists’ royalties. Order pizza at the recording studio? They charge that against your (small) cut of the royalties. Want to do extra promotions? Charge it against the royalties.

And… apparently, sue Universal music for withholding millions in royalties? It looks like they’ll charge that against your royalties too…

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Companies: fbt productions, universal music

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Comments on “Did Universal Music Try To Expense The Costs Of Eminem's Producers Suing Over Unpaid Royalties… Back To Eminem's Producers?”

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53 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What’s the problem with charging the artist for legal fees you incur defending against lawsuits filed by the artist for not paying the artist?

Lets compare this to a similar situation, to show Universal Music’s point.

-Universal Music hires you as an employee paid at the end of each month, with a $120,000 dollars a year salary.

-At the end of the month Universal Music pays you only $4,000 before taxes, not the $10,000 you were expecting, so you sue Universal Music.

-As the lawsuit continues you continue working for Universal music for an entire year, getting paid $4,000 dollars each month

-You win an expensive lawsuit against Universal Music, so Universal Music gives you an accounting statement saying you’re owed $72,000 in back salary. But Universal’s statement also says it cost them $60,000 to defend against your lawsuit (and that’s not counting the $20,000 you spent on your own lawyer in that lawsuit), so Universal writes you a check for $12,000 and calls it even.

You see, perfectly reasonable of Universal Music! It’s also a darn convenient way to get around pesky minimum wage laws, thanks to a little bit of creativity. Creativity is good! If we punish Universal Music for their creativity then the artists Universal Music represents won’t be motivated to create new music!

Ninja (profile) says:

Mike, if you aren’t for copyright you are obviously a pedophile. Your misinformation won’t stick, it’s obvious that Universal is protecting the artists except that now they are protecting Eminem from himself. I’ll explain, chubby: by suing Universal and challenging the sacred laws of copyright Eminem could have turned into some filthy pirate. Universal is obviously protecting him, chubby.

Matthew (profile) says:

Balls of solid brass.

Stay classy UMG!

When life gives you lemons, charge life a handling fee for those lemons, write them off as a lemonade-making business expense, claim an organic food producers’ tax credit, and then sell the lemonade. Don’t forget to charge for the cup, a modest pouring fee, and a bathroom access fee. You’ll need that money to pay lobbyists to get laws passed outlawing those cute little kids on the corner of the next block.

Note that you’ll probably lose money on this whole venture, but hey – write-off, plus it’s more evidence of the economic harm those kids are causing you. Win-win.

Anonymous Coward says:

like the numerous independent reports that debunk the entertainment industries losses, usually blamed on ‘piracy’, those in power will completely ignore this and any similar information. they refuse to believe that there are greater wrong-doings by those industries to the very artists they keep insisting they are trying to protect, than to those industries. they refuse to see what is right in front of them simply because they dont want to. what a shame that there isn’t reporting of this kind of thing to the same extent as when the entertainment industries are complaining about their ‘sorry state of affairs’ or ‘blowing their own trumpets’!

Anonymous Coward says:

Riposte!

The issue is that the clauses are not illegal. They are legal. Like it or not, a contract that basically says “all legal expenses regarding this contract, it’s terms, or any legal action as a result of this contract are considered “expenses” as defined in section 1″ is entirely enforceable.

Is it nice? no. Is it a good idea? Probably not, but I don’t think either party considered the type of legal action that happened here, not the scale of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Well, here’s the thing though: if the artist was getting sued as a result of the contract, but didn’t have funds to hire a lawyer, the label could pay for the lawyers and take it off the royalties, as an example. I can understand how this sort of clause exists.

I don’t think either side really considered this type of long running lawsuit, nor considered the full implications.

MrWilson says:

“I understand this concern on behalf of the tax payers. People want value for money. That’s why we always insist on the principle of Information Retrieval charges. It’s absolutely right and fair that those found guilty should pay for their periods of detention and for the Information Retrieval Procedures used in their interrogation.”

– Brazil

Despair 1 says:

Despair the assholes

Somehow, , the reality of the music publishing business needs to be blown wide open mainstream so everyone can see .
Who needs to look very closely indeed are the law makers and their door busting cops running around like puppy dogs for the freakin music industry of all people. I dare say the movie business is not much better or are these guys as pure as snow ?
If was not so sick it would be so funny ,law enforcement taking sides with these assholes. I despair.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re:

In addition to previous revues –

use of first name to imply peerage: check
pedo reference: check
use of ‘filthy pirate’: check

This would be a 9/10 except for the lack of (and I cannot stress this enough) capitalizing Important Ideas (extra points for random cap). And, this is a small quibble, but your spelling and syntax corresponds too closely to the output of a rational mind.

Edward Teach says:

Belay that assumption, mate!

Just a cotton pickin’ minute, here. “If the contract says…” means that you don’t know exactly what Eminem’s contract says.

So, why, a mere one sentence later, do you say “it’s in the contract”? Are you privy to some sort of inside information? Is so, why stay anonymous? Why not come out authoritatively and squelch any dissent? If not, I call BS on you.

A third option is that you’ve read all the trial’s affidavits etc, and you do know what the contract says. Why not just refer to that document? Anybody really really interested can pay for a copy from the court. Why not be a good internet citizen?

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s always funny to me when people say Eminem suing for this and that. In truth Eminem doesn’t control any aspect of his career and had no part in any of it.

Eminem doesn’t get one dime of the money because his manager, who’s does side business with Interscope and essentially owns a huge portion of Eminem’s masters (rather than Eminem owning them) refused to cooperate with FBT. Even at one point trying to get FBT to drop the lawsuit and settle.

Richard (profile) says:

Riposte!

The issue is that the clauses are not illegal. They are legal. Like it or not, a contract that basically says “all legal expenses regarding this contract, it’s terms, or any legal action as a result of this contract are considered “expenses” as defined in section 1″ is entirely enforceable.

If that were true then the contract would have zero value to the artist – since Universal could perpetrate ANY wrongdoing they liked with impunity. No court would accept that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I must admit to not knowing what the law actually says about this… but it is morally indefensible to charge someone for your defense against their lawsuit. If Universal eventually wins the lawsuit, then it’s up to the judge to grant lawyer fees or not. IF the judge does grant the fees, THEN it would be appropriate to do this withholding. But not before then.

Imagine all employers doing this. Oh, you sued because you’re being paid less than minimum wage? Here, we’ll just deduct the costs of the lawsuit from your paycheck. Not our fault you didn’t read that 8 page employment contract, right?

Of course, in a sane universe, nobody would ever enter a contract with such a company ever again. We apparently do not live in a sane universe.

hegemon13 says:

Re:

It’s not a matter of the sanity of the universe, but of those signing the contracts. And, to be honest, those signing the contracts are understandably not in a sane state of mind. They are in a state of euphoria. For most artists, being recognized and being able to make a professional income from their work is such a powerful dream, that such a contract becomes a sublime fulfillment that disables rational thought.

I know the feeling. I had one short story published UNPAID in an anthology, and I was walking on clouds for days. I almost accepted ridiculous and destructive edits just to see it published. Fortunately, I had enough peers to look at the edits, slap me upside the head, and say, “No, those do not improve the story. The editor is trying to be the author of the anthology, and a full rewrite and re-imagining of your story does not qualify as an edit.” Still, it took all I had to write back and state that I could not accept the edits. (Unlike the story, there was a happy ending, and they published in original form.)

Back to the point, you are correct. Such contracts are not sane. But these are corporations who know how to exploit the starry-eyed dreams of artists, drown them in flattery, and strangle them at their weakest moment.

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