A drummer who spent four years in one of the greatest punk bands of all time, the Ramones, filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming he is owed nearly $1 million in royalties on songs sold over the Internet.
Richard "Richie Ramone" Reinhardt, who performed with the Ramones between 1983 and 1987, sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Apple Inc., RealNetworks Inc., the band's management and the estate of its lead guitarist, claiming he had never fully signed over the rights to the six songs he wrote for the group.
Specifically, Reinhardt said there was never any written deal authorizing the sale of those songs digitally. He said he is owed at least $900,000 in royalties, and asked the court to issue an injunction preventing further use of his compositions without permission.
Along with the digital music stores, the lawsuit names a pair of production companies associated with the band and the estate of guitarist John Cummings, who performed under the name Johnny Ramone and was the driving force behind the band's business affairs.
Spokespeople for Wal-Mart and Apple declined to comment on the lawsuit. Officials at RealNetworks did not immediately respond to an inquiry. A lawyer for the band and one of its business representatives, Ira Herzog, did not immediately return phone messages.
The Ramones helped define punk after forming their band in New York in 1974. They performed for 22 years, with various members, before their last show in 1996.
Three of the group's founding members, Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee, have died in recent years. The original drummer, Tommy, became a producer for the band and was replaced by Marky Ramone. Reinhardt took over on drums during a Marky hiatus in the 1980s.
His six songs for the Ramones were "Smash You," "Somebody Put Something in My Drink," "Human Kind," "I'm Not Jesus," "I Know Better Now" and "(You) Can't Say Something Nice."
The federal lawsuit is related to a claim already filed in state court in which Reinhardt accused the band of shortchanging him on royalties related to his performances.
That case had been put on hold while the two sides tried to work out a settlement, but the talks weren't fruitful and the cease-fire is now off, said Reinhardt's lawyer, Jeff Sanders.
"Richie has never gotten the recognition creatively, and certainly economically, for being a mainstay for the Ramones during what was probably not their most visible period," Sanders said.
Reinhardt's last musical project was scoring a percussion-focused arrangement of the musical "West Side Story" for the Pasadena Pops Orchestra.