Musician Sues CBS Studios Over Song Played on 'America's Next Top Model'

R&B artist Delray Richardson also claims manipulation of cue sheets, which determine who gets paid from music on TV shows.
Patrick Wymore/The CW

Delray Richardson, an R&B artist, is suing CBS Studios for allegedly stealing his songs for use on the CW reality show America's Next Top Model.

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California, at least 15 of Richardson's recordings have been broadcast on multiple occasions without license or payment. Richardson and Zion Records are looking for an injunction and damages.

A CBS spokesperson says “this is a claim that is very much off key and has absolutely no merit”

Music on television typically requires both a sync license and a performance license from the copyright holder. But it's the producer's job to keep track of the music used. To do this, producers use an honor-code system of "cue sheets" to denote what music is used on a show. The cue sheets are then turned into performance rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI, which use the information to split up royalty collection.

It's not a perfect system, and it's been subject to much grumbling among artists, as well as a few lawsuits.

In this particular case, when Richardson watched America's Next Top Model, he heard music that sounded very familiar. To prevail in a copyright case, he'll have to beat the tough test that judges impose for infringement. But Richardson also saw something else on Top Model that he doesn't find attractive.

He alleges that there are artists and artist administrators who are receiving money out of the show's music budget — just not always the ones whose songs are being played.

For instance, In the fifth episode of the tenth season of the show, Richardson says there are 179 songs on the cue sheet and 37 of those songs weren't actually played. And who might be deriving benefit for those 37 songs?

Richardson offers this:

"The 'author' of these non-existent musical compositions appears fudiciary related to the music supervisor [Matthew M. Kierscht, Lawyer, CBS Music Supervisor] and/or the author of the actual cue sheets themselves (Donald Steever, CBS Music Operations Manager.]"

Richardson believes that the lawsuit will turn up more adventures in cue sheet manipulation. Besides copyright infringement, he's also suing for fraud, unjust enrichment and negligent representation.

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