The Florida Orchestra is suing Arista Records for royalties from the re-release of Whitney Houston’s rendition of the national anthem performed during Super Bowl XXV. “It is a pity that we have to go to court on something so honorable and uplifting as the national anthem,” said Leonard Stone, orchestra executive director.
The orchestra learned of the alleged contract breach after the anthem was reissued following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and quickly became a hot-selling single, Stone said. The song had first been re-released in 2000 on Houston’s Arista album “The Greatest Hits.”
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, in Tampa, Fla., asks a judge to enforce terms of a 1991 agreement requiring Arista to pay orchestra royalties on all sales worldwide of Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The orchestra accompanied Houston during her 1991 Super Bowl performance in Tampa. Sales of “The Greatest Hits” have topped 10 million copies, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages. The album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and at No. 5 on The Billboard 200.
Since Sept. 11, the royalties could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit orchestra, which cut its budget by $600,000 this year to $7.6 million and forced musicians to take a pay cut, Stone said.
No one was available for comment at Arista’s New York office.
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