Motion denied in UMG royalties cases

Class action against label group will proceed

A federal judge has denied Universal Music Group’s motion for a summary judgment in a pair of class action suits over digital royalties filed by the Rick James estate, Rob Zombie and his band White Zombie, Whitesnake and Dave Mason.

On April 19, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, who is presiding in San Francisco, vacated a scheduled April 20 hearing and denied UMG’s motion for dismissal for two claims in the cases. Attorneys for the plaintiffs plan to move for class certification on all counts.

Last April, the James estate filed its class action against UMG, alleging that the company has wrongfully computed royalties for digital downloads and ringtones as sales, rather than as licenses. The suit by Zombie and the other plaintiffs was filed in May. More than a dozen such actions have been filed to date (Daily Variety, April 16).

Suits spring from a September 2010 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a case filed by F.B.T. Productions, which handled Eminem in the early days of his career, against UMG imprint Aftermath. The appellate court ruled that digital royalties should be computed as licenses.

The damages phase in that case, which had been scheduled to begin in Los Angeles April 24, was moved back earlier this week; a hearing in the case is now set for mid-June.

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