Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Musicians Pile On UMG Label for|Their Cut of Ringtone Royalties

OAKLAND (CN) - Heavy metal star Rob Zombie is leading a federal class action against UMG Recordings, accusing the label of not paying artists to license their music as digital downloads and ringtones.

The 21-page lawsuit notes that the 9th Circuit ruled in September that Universal Music Group's Aftermath Records had underpaid on music download royalties to Eminem's producers, and that the Supreme Court effectively affirmed that decision in refusing to let the label appeal in March.

Now Rob Zombie, born Robert Cummings, says it's his turn. He is joined as a plaintiff by his band White Zombie, folk musician Dave Mason and rock band Whitesnake.

"Plaintiffs here allege, and the Ninth Circuit found, that digital download and ringtone income received by UMG derives from a license," according to the complaint.

"By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to compel UMG to account to and pay its other recording artists and music producers (i.e. those not directly involved in the [Eminem] litigation) their rightful share of the licensing income paid to UMG for downloads and mastertones [ringtones] of the recorded music licensed by UMG to these entities," the lawsuit states.

UMG seems to think that "the rule of law does not apply to" it, the musicians claim, noting that the label told The New York Times that the Eminem decision "sets no legal precedent."

The artists say UMG's conduct has had "substantial monetary consequences" for them - a difference that "may amount on a class-wide basis to tens of millions of dollars or more each year."

Zombie and the other musicians seek restitution, damages, an injunction and declaratory relief for UMG's breach of contract. They are represented by Michael Sobol with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein of San Francisco.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.