LOS ANGELES (CN) – UMG Recordings has been selling Bing Crosby tunes as cell phone ring tones without permission for 4 years, according to singer’s estate. Crosby’s 1943 contract with Decca records is attached to the Superior Court complaint. It promised him 2 to 4 cents royalties for each “shellac” record sold, plus $1,000 a week.
After Crosby died in 1977, his widow assigned his music, movie and publicity rights to HLC Properties. Crosby’s given name was Harry Lillis Crosby Jr.
UMG never approached HLC about a digital downloading deal, according to the Superior Court complaint. The parties never agreed to a royalty rate that would apply to ring tones.
UMG unilaterally applied the record royalty rate to digital downloads, the estate says. UMG also is accused of using Crosby’s name and picture without permission to sell the ring tones.
Crosby signed his last recording contract with UMG’s predecessor, Decca Records, in 1943. The contract, attached to the lawsuit, promised Crosby $1,000 a week for 7 years; Crosby had to record 36 to 40 songs per year.
The contract promised royalties of 2 to 4 cents for each “shellac” record sold.
The contract did not allow Decca to produce Crosby’s music using technology other than shellac records, the lawsuit claims. And it did not cover “any future discovered media,” according to the complaint.
Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the top-selling single of all time, according to the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was the highest-selling album until The Eagles “Greatest Hits” edged it out in 2000.