REO Speedwagon, Boz Scaggs Latest To Sue Sony Music Over Digital Downloads
REO Speedwagon, Boz Scaggs Latest To Sue Sony Music Over Digital Downloads

Sony Music has been hit with more litigation over the way artists are compensated whenever consumers buy songs on iTunes and other digital outlets.

Late last week, separate lawsuits were filed in New York federal court by REO Speedwagon and William "Boz" Scaggs. Both plaintiffs say that Sony has breached recording contracts by counting digital downloads as "sales" rather than "leases" or "licenses." As a result of this accounting treatment, the artists allege they haven't been paid appropriately. The royalty rate on a sale is around 15 percent compared to a "license/lease" which is 50 percent.

Last March, Sony appeared to resolve much of the legal nightmare over digital downloads by coming to an $8 million settlement with several musicians who had been fighting for some time. Attorneys in that class action pushed a New York judge on Thursday to give final approval of the settlement. In a memorandum, the lawyers stated that there have been no objections to any aspect of the proposed settlement.

Nevertheless, Sony continues to see more artists filing litigation over digital royalties. A 2010 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that suggested that digital downloads should be treated as "licenses" has emboldened many artists to seek a greater cut.

In August, a producer who has worked with Journey, Guns N' Roses and Ozzy Osbourne filed his own action on this front.

Now, REO Speedwagon, a band with 13 Top 40 hits, and Skaggs, with six Top 40 hits, have both joined the legal parade.

Sony isn't the only music major facing a rash of digital royalties litigation.

Two weeks ago, James Taylor sued Warner Bros. Records for almost $2 million in damages. Warner is also battling Sister Sledge and Gary Wright.

Meanwhile, Universal has been facing lawsuits from the likes of The Temptations, Peter Frampton, Chuck D, Rob Zombie, Rick James, George Clinton and others.

As for EMI, Kenny Rogers and The Knack are battling subsidiary Capitol Records.

The two new lawsuits on behalf of REO Speedwagon and Boz Scaggs are being spearheaded by Richard Busch at King & Ballow, who has quickly become one of the go-to lawyers for many artists on this front. He's also representing Taylor as well as the producers of Eminem whose legal win helped trigger the parade of old musicians looking to collect more money on newer revenue sources. Although some of these artists might not enjoy the kinds of success they experienced in their heyday, they are still very important to the labels as it takes lesser promotional costs to exploit their existing fame.