'Weird Al' Yankovic Settles $5 Million Lawsuit Against Sony Music

Among the parodist's claims were that he had been cheated on digital income, that he helped Sony get equity in YouTube and that he hadn't seen money from the Napster settlement.
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"Weird Al" Yankovic

"Weird Al" Yankovic has settled a lawsuit that his company Ear Booker brought against Sony Music in March 2012.

The lawsuit was among many brought by musicians contending that record labels have breached contracts by improperly treating digital downloads as "sales" rather than "licenses." As a result, Yankovic only received about 15 percent of shared income off of digital hubs like iTunes instead of 50 percent. The difference was alleged to have resulted in Sony underpaying Yankovic at least $1.5 million.

Yankovic, a parodist who has won multiple Grammy Awards for best comedy recording, claimed to have turned up a lot more that was troubling in an audit.

Among the alleged breaches were improperly charging marketing costs for various VH1 and MTV specials, underpaying on domestic publishing royalties, failing to pay him for goods given or discounted to retailers, failing to properly account for streaming transmissions like ringbacks, and underreporting sync income on music used on TV shows around the world.

The lawsuit also threw in some eyebrow-raising allegations.

For example, Yankovic cited Google's 2006 purchase of YouTube and a content licensing agreement then struck by Sony. According to the lawsuit, Sony was given an equity stake in YouTube in exchange for YouTube receiving a license to distribute Sony's content. The musician said that his "White and Nerdy" was earning millions of views at the time of the deal. "In fact, one of the reasons Sony had so much leverage in negotiating with YouTube was that Mr. Yankovic's videos were so popular they drove significant traffic to the YouTube website," said the complaint.

Yankovic demanded a piece of the Sony-YouTube deal in proportion to the value of his videos.

That wasn't all.

The singer also demanded payments from licensing agreements and settlements that Sony had struck with third parties including Spotify and Vevo, and also said that he had seen nothing from monetary awards and settlements that came through the record industry's legal battles with Napster, Kazaa, Grokster and others.

In total, in excess of $5 million was alleged in damages. Papers filed by the parties in New York federal court this week to dismiss the case with prejudice don't specify what Yankovic ended up getting.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner