$11.5 Million Ringtone Settlement Approved

      SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge gave final approval to an $11.5 million class action settlement from the Estate of Rick James, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and other musicians over royalties from digital music downloads.
     U.S. District Judge Susan Illston also approved $2.9 million in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees , to be taken from the $11.5 million settlement.
     The musicians claimed in their 2011 lawsuit that Universal Music Group stiffed them on royalties by calling digital downloads “sales” instead of “licensing agreements” when people bought permanent downloads and ringtones for cellphones. Sales royalties are less than those for licensing.
     On April 15, 2015, shortly after the settlement was announced, Len Simon, one the plaintiffs’ attorneys, told the Hollywood Reporter he was pleased with the deal.
     “This settlement is a fair resolution of this controversy over how to compensate artists for their valuable work in a new medium which we believe was not contemplated by their contracts, many drafted in the 1970s and 1980s,” Simon said. “And it compensates these artists now, rather than after additional years of litigation and uncertainty.”
     Judge Illston wrote in her order approving the settlement that she will oversee the distribution of the settlement fund to the claimants.

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