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Is selling music via digital download services a “sale” or a “license” for the purpose of accounting to recording artists? That question has been raised again in a new lawsuit filed by the sister of Bruce Gary, the late drummer of the rock group the Knack.
Felice Catena, the heir to Gary’s estate, sued Capitol Records in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday claiming the label has failed to pay a 50 percent royalty rate when licensing the Knack music like My Sharona and Good Girls Don’t to such digital dowload services as Apple’s iTunes, Amazon and others. Catena argues, as have such other artists as Eminem, that downloads, master tones and ringtones should count as “licenses” of the master recordings under and thus be subject to more artist-friendly royalty rates.
Instead, Capitol has paid members of the Knack “at a lower royalty rates, under provisions of the recording agreement which they knew were applicable only to phonorecords sold by [Capitol], not the licensing of the masters,” the complaint alleges.
Gary died in 2006, but his sister is executor of his estate.
The complaint, filed by Paul Duvall and Richard Busch of King & Ballow, seeks unspecified damages, an accounting and a declaration requiring Capitol to account to the Knack based on 50 percent of net recepits for the licensing of the masters.
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