Public Enemy’s Chuck D sues Universal over underpaid royalties

Rapper alleges artists have been deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars

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Public Enemy‘s Chuck D is suing Universal Music Group, alleging the underpayment of royalties for digital downloads.

The rapper has brought the class action against the major in the San Francisco Federal Court. He claims that UMG routinely miscalculates the royalties owed to artists for downloads by treating them as “sales” of physical records rather than “licenses”.

Chuck D’s complaint follows this week’s decision to bring forward a similar consolidated class action brought by Rob Zombie and the estate of Rick James, according to Billboard.

His lawyers at Hausfiueld LLP said that UMG has underpaid hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties, and pointed to a decision last year by the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals that offers precedent that downloads should be treated as “licenses”.

Partner James Pizzirusso said: “Chuck D has been fighting the power over two decades and will continue to do so through this suit in order to help all musicians, including many legacy artists who are living on fixed incomes.”

A UMG spokesperson responded: “This complaint suffers from serious flaws and weaknesses, not least of which is that the claims asserted are not appropriate for class treatment. We will vigorously defend against it.”

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