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Michael files to end Sony pact

Sony Music recording artist George Michael has filed suit in the United Kingdom to end his relationship with the company and is expected to cite a precedent that has been used to free other artists from their deals.

Michael, who lives in London, issigned to Sony U.K. records for Sony’s Columbia label. The singer is one of the world’s biggest-selling recording artists, beginning with his days as part of the duo Wham! and continuing through a solo career that has included the platinum albums “Faith” and “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. I.” He most recently hit the charts with a remake of Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me.”

His management company confirmed yesterday that a suit seeking to break the contract has been filed but declined to release details until later in the week.

Rob Kahane, head of Michael’s Los Angeles-based management company, is expected to issue a statement at that time, according to a company spokesman.

Michael’s U.K.-based attorney Tony Russell could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Sony Music in New York declined comment.

Michael is expected to claim that his Sony U.K. contract is inequitable, a tactic used by former Frankie Goes to Hollywood singer and Island recording artist Holly Johnson and former Silvertone-turned-Geffen band the Stone Roses to break their label deals.

Jay Cooper, a partner in the Los Angeles-based law firm of Cooper, Epstein, Hurewitz, said, “The English courts are much more liberal toward artists than they are in the U.S.,” citing a case where songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan managed to break his contract because his label allegedly did not properly promote his album. “You can’t do that in the U.S.”

Cooper, who said he had not seen the suit but admitted that the possibility of it had been floating around legal circles for some time, said generally that any U.K. court decision would not affect American artists signed to U.S. companies, but could affect many popular international artists signed by U.K.-based companies.

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