RIAA Keeps Settlement Money, Artists May Sue

Despite collecting an estimated several hundred million dollars in P2P related settlements from the likes of Napster, KaZaA and Bolt, prominent artists' managers are complaining that so far, they haven't received any compensation from the labels. According to a lawyer, some are considering legal action.

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When EMI, Universal Music and Warner music reached settlement agreements with the likes of Napster, KaZaA and Bolt, they collected hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation – money that was supposed to go to artists whose rights had been allegedly infringed upon when the networks were operating with unlicensed music.

Now, according to an article, the managers of some major artists are getting very impatient, as it appears the very people who were supposed to be compensated – the artists – haven’t received anything from the massive settlements. They say the cash – estimated to be as much as $400m – hasn’t filtered through to their clients and understandably they’re getting very impatient.

Lawyer John Branca, who has represented the likes of The Rolling Stones and Korn, said: “Artist managers and lawyers have been wondering for months when their artists will see money from the copyright settlements and how it will be accounted for.”

Indicating the levels of impatience with the big labels holding the money he added: “Some of them are even talking about filing lawsuits if they don’t get paid soon.”

Of course, EMI, Universal and Warner have a different take on the delay, with sources suggesting that it’s down to the difficulties in deciding who gets what money, based on the levels of copyright infringement for each individual group or artist.

A recording industry on the back foot having spent most of its time fighting the digital revolution rather than becoming part of it, is clearly trying to hang on to every penny, even when it comes to compensating the artists who they claim they were defending by taking legal action in the first place.

Irving Azoff, who manages Christina Aguilera, The Eagles, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon and Seal (amongst others) says it’s hard for artists to get what they deserve from the labels: “They will play hide and seek, but eventually will be forced to pay something,” he said. “The record companies have even tried to credit unrecouped accounts. It’s never easy for an artist to get paid their fair share.”

Typically, the labels see it a different way. An EMI spokeperson said that it was “sharing proceeds from the Napster and Kazaa settlements with artists and writers whose work was infringed upon” while Warner’s said the label is “sharing the Napster settlement with its recording artists and songwriters, and at this stage nearly all settlement monies have been disbursed.”

The Universal spokesman spoke only of the label’s ‘policy’ of sharing “its portion of various settlements with its artists, regardless of whether their contracts require it” with no mention of whether it had actually done this or not.

But typically, when money is involved, things start to get murky. The same sources who suggested the reasons for the delay in making payments are also suggesting that there might not be much money to even give to the artists.

It’s being claimed that after legal bills were subtracted from the hundreds of millions in settlements, there wasn’t much left over to hand out.

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