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L. Bird pkeets at hotmail.com
Mon May 10 10:02:42 CDT 2004


Repost from BritInvasion:

>May 5, 2004

Record Labels Must Pay Shortchanged Performers

By LOLA OGUNNAIKE

David Bowie may not need the extra money, and Elvis Presley will not be able
to spend his windfall. But under an agreement announced yesterday by New 
York
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, record companies will be sending out checks 
for
outstanding royalties owed to them and thousands of other artists.

Mr. Spitzer said that the settlement, which amounted to nearly $50 million,
was the result of a two-year investigation that found the world's largest
recording companies had failed to maintain contact with many artists and 
writers
and had stopped making required payments to them.

In an interview after a news conference that was filled with television
cameras, Mr. Spitzer said that "an array of explanations" were offered by 
the
record companies, "like `we didn't really pay close attention,' " and none 
were
"persuasive legally."

Already $25 million has been paid out since his office began its
investigation, Mr. Spitzer said.

Among the more prominent artists due money are Mr. Bowie, owed $10,698, and
Dolly Parton, owed $17,568. Willie Nelson is owned $2,325, Tom Jones $16,399
and Public Enemy $22,766. "It's not like it's hard to find them," Mr. 
Spitzer
said. "You could go to a concert and throw the check at them onstage."

Money owed to artists now dead will go to their estates. Mr. Spitzer 
stressed
that the settlement would bring the most benefit to "an enormous reservoir 
of
artists for whom $500 or $1,000 will matter."

When told that she would receive $3,079, Marian McPartland, an 86-year-old
jazz pianist who is the host of "Piano Jazz" on National Public Radio, 
expressed
surprise: "It's always nice to get money without doing anything, but I guess
many years ago I did do something."

Under the agreement, Warner Music Group, Bertelsmann Music Group, Sony Music
Entertainment and EMI Group must list the names of artists and writers who 
are
owed royalties on their Web sites; place advertisements in leading
music-industry trade publications explaining procedures for applying for
unclaimed royalties; work with music-industry groups and unions to find 
artists who are
owed royalties; and share artist contact information with one another.

In a statement, Sony Music said, "We applaud the attorney general's efforts
to focus attention on this area and sincerely hope that his announcement 
will
encourage additional artists and their heirs to step forward and claim their
royalties."

Bob Donnelly, an entertainment lawyer, said he brought the royalty matter to
Mr. Spitzer's attention. Mr. Donnelly said that he had planned to file a
class-action lawsuit against the music industry, "but every time we'd get a 
good
plaintiff, the record company would offer to pay them."

Mr. Donnelly encouraged Mr. Spitzer to use New York State's
abandoned-property law. "The law says that after five years of holding
somebody's property that has been theoretically abandoned, you have to turn 
the money over to the state," Mr. Donnelly said.

Mr. Donnelly had previously secured royalty payments for the Ronettes,
Foreigner and Bootsy Collins. "The labels had clearly violated the law" by 
not
transferring the money to the state," he said.

Representatives from artist advocacy groups expressed satisfaction with the
settlement. "Any time you can find a new source of income that can assist 
our
constituents in maintaining their dignity and way of life we're happy," said
Kendall Minter, chairman of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

L. Londell McMillan, a lawyer who helped found the Artist Empowerment
Coalition, said the record companies' decision to distribute royalties may
represent the beginning of a new era in the industry. "For so long the music 
business
has been operating like the wild, wild West," Mr. McMillan said. "But with
things like Enron and WorldCom going on, labels may be finally realizing 
that
it's time to reel things in."



Leslie Eaton contributed reporting for this article.

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