Press release: Collyer Bristow comments on Radiohead-Parlophone digital royalties lawsuit

16 Oct 2015

Background

Radiohead is suing its former record label, Parlophone, over a deduction of £744,000 from digital download royalties paid to the band which they contend were unauthorised. Radiohead’s contract with Parlophone ended in 2003 with the album Hail to the Thief.

Most recording contracts contain a provision that royalties for recordings on ‘future formats’ will be paid at a rate to be agreed. The band contends that no such rate was agreed with Parlophone (formerly an EMI subsidiary) for digital downloads and that the deductions made in 2008 and 2009 for costs apparently incurred in 1992 and 1998, long before the advent of digital downloads, were in breach of the contract.

Parlophone had asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was time-barred due to the band’s failure to challenge the deductions within the contractual time limit.

The court disagreed with Parlophone, accepting the band’s argument that there could be no time limit on a challenge, as no agreement had ever been made over the rate of royalty payments for digital downloads. The case will now go forward.

Comments from Howard Ricklow, Partner in the Media and Intellectual Property team at law firm Collyer Bristow

Says Howard Ricklow of Collyer Bristow: “It’s virtually impossible for anyone to predict how we’ll be listening to music in ten or fifteen years’ time, but it’s certainly possible to honour contractual agreements over royalties for recordings, no matter what format they are in.”

“This case is particularly ironic, given that Parlophone went through very similar legal issues with the Beatles in the 1980s when CDs were a new media format.”

“The fact that Radiohead are no longer contracted to Parlophone may well have played a role in how Parlophone has approached this issue – record labels have no reason not to squeeze every penny out of recordings by artists that are not on their roster anymore, especially as the value of recordings continues to fall.”

“The fact that this case is now moving forward may well encourage other artists to mount legal challenges against record labels over their royalty payment practices, but only the biggest acts are likely to have the funds to be able to do it.”

Ends Contacts:

Howard Ricklow, Partner, Collyer Bristow LLP.  Telephone: (0)20 7468 7231.

Richard Crossan, Mattison Public Relations. Telephone: (0)20 7645 3636.

Additional information