And we thought Rick James was bringing the heat. On Wednesday, Chuck D filed a massive class action lawsuit against Universal Music Group, one loosely valued in the ‘hundreds of millions’.
The suit, filed in the US District Court for Northern California, alleges that UMG is paying a fraction of what is owed on various digital formats like downloads and ringtones, just like the James lawsuit. “The exact amount… will be determined at trial, but which likely equates to hundreds of millions of dollars if not more,” the aggressive filing estimates.
Chuck D attorneys Hausfeld LLP are putting out the call to “all Universal Music Group artists,” starting the wheels on a potentially monstrous class action. And this could be the beginning of an anticipated flood of big-artist lawsuits, all based on the assertion that labels should be categorizing digital formats as licenses instead of sales. The former nets a far higher return – as much as 50 percent – while the latter delivers a more modest percentage.
Obviously, D – whose ‘government’ is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour – wants his famous releases re-categorized as licenses, with appropriate back-payments attached. “As digital downloads have emerged as the primary method by which many consumers acquire music, UMG has systematically failed to pay appropriate royalties to musicians for these downloads,” argued James Pizzirusso, a partner at Hausfeld involved in the case.
A chunk of D’s recordings got roped into the UMG umbrella with the acquisition of Def Jam Recordings in the 90s. Universal has promised to “vigorously defend” against the “flawed” case.