SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The five members of Sweet Honey in the Rock claim their record label tricked them out of rights to their music after shorting them of royalties for years. The famed a cappella group demands $5 million from Lieb Ostrow and three of his record labels: Musical Kidz, For Future Generations and Music for Little People.
In their federal complaint, the band also sued Trudy Corp., successor in interest to the three other businesses.
The singers say they signed several agreements with Ostrow and his labels, from 1989 to 2002. But over the years, they say, Ostrow fell behind on royalties and advances.
In October 2007, the band says, For Future Generations dba Music for Little People assigned to creditors all of its assets, including its contractual rights to seven Sweet Honey albums, to settle its debts.
The assignee, Equitable Transitions Inc., then sold to the band all the rights to its own master recordings, the complaint states.
But the group says Ostrow had transferred ownership of their music to another of his imprints, Musical Kidz, in March 2007.
In December that year, the band says, it demanded that Ostrow hand over the rights that Sweet Honey had bought from Music for Little People.
The band says that Ostrow refused, and instead sold Musical Kidz and Music for Little People to the music and book publisher Trudy Corp., in March 2008.
Sweet Honey in the Rock says it registered its copyrights to the songs in April 2008.
The singers demand a declaration the band members are sole owners of all Sweet Honey in the Rock assets. They also demand $5 million for copyright infringement and punitive damages.
Sweet Honey in the rock consists of singers Ysaye Barnwell, Aisha Kahill, Carol Maillard, Nitanju Cassel and Louise Robinson.
They are represented by Reginald Brown of Los Angeles.