MANHATTAN (CN) – Duke Ellington’s grandson claims EMI Mills Music unfairly pocketed “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in foreign royalties from the jazz legend’s music.
EMI is supposed to hand over half of the Duke’s foreign publishing royalties, Paul Ellington claims in New York Supreme Court. Ellington says he is entitled to keep 40 percent of that money, while his three siblings get 20 percent each.
Instead, EMI allegedly worked out a scam to keep 75 percent of the royalties by “funneling foreign publishing royalties through EMI-affiliated foreign subpublishers.”
Ellington claims EMI had its own foreign affiliates keep half of the royalties, while sending the other half to its state-side counterpart. That way, on paper, it looked like the recordings were only making half as much. Then, EMI would send half of the money its foreign affiliates had forwarded, so that the family was splitting only a quarter of the total foreign royalties, Ellington claims.
While the artist’s family received fewer royalties, EMI was “double-dipping, retaining both its own share and that of its foreign affiliate,” according to the complaint.
Ellington says the problem could be larger than just his own family’s lost royalties.
“This practice — characterized by authoritative music publishing treatises as ‘unscrupulous’ and a ‘scam’ — has the effect — especially when aggregated across the many artists with music publishing deals in place with a single music publisher — of creating a massive windfall for the publisher while depriving artists of, and concealing from them, their rightful share of foreign publishing royalties,” the lawsuit states.
Ellington seeks a declaration that foreign royalty funneling scheme is a scam, an injunction ordering EMI to pay the correct amount of royalties in the future, and “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in damages.
Richard Scarola with Scarola Ellis is representing him.