In a lawsuit filed Friday (March 30) in New York City, Yankovic — via his company Ear Booker Enterprises — claims that Sony “took improper and duplicate recoupments that has resulted in underpayment of his royalties.” According to the suit, Sony counted downloads of his music as “sales” rather than as “licenses,” which pay at a higher royalty rate of 50 percent of total revenue.
Yankovic is not the first artist to sue for this kind of payment, and the lawsuit could hold up, thanks to a 2011 precendent-setting case involving Eminem. That case established that digital downloads count as licenses rather than traditional sales, which yield lower royalty rates.
Yankovic is also seeking money from Sony’s settlements with Napster, Kazaa, Grokster and other file-sharing services to recoup lost revenue. Also on the digital front, the comedian-meets-musician seeks $2.5 million from Sony’s share of the 2006 sale of YouTube. When YouTube was sold to Google for $1.65 billion, major labels Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group reportedly made a collective $50 million from the sale, thanks to their respective shares in YouTube, which they received because they provided content to the video-sharing site. Yankovic claims that his 2006 video for “White & Nerdy” — which has racked up nearly 70 million views on YouTube — was among the most popular content on the video-sharing site, thus yielding him revenue he hasn’t been paid.
Weird Al’s most recent album, Alpocalypse, was released on Sony subsidiary Volcano Records last year.
–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local