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Sony’s Dixie divorce

Country act countersues label over royalties

The Dixie Chicks have filed a countersuit against Sony Music Entertainment, alleging breach of contract, fraud and racketeering. The country supergroup claims Sony has withheld at least $4.1 million in royalties from them over the past three years.

Suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also claims Sony has violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act –legislation normally used to combat organized crime.

“In essence, Sony’s attitude is ‘catch me if you can’ and only those performers with financial resources and tenacity can endeavor to overcome the obstacles placed before them to recover the wrongfully withheld funds,” the Chicks said in a statement.

Into the void

The action follows Sony’s own complaint against the group, filed last month. The label also claimed breach of contract, after the Chicks — Emily Robison, Martie Seidel and Natalie Maines Pasdar — ankled Sony over the disputed royalties. At the time, Sony said the group still owes four more records on its current deal, and a dispute over royalties is not grounds for voiding the contract.

Sony reps were not available for comment Tuesday.

According to the Chicks’ suit, Sony intentionally used “wrongful accounting practices” to underpay the artists’ portion of record royalties, including improperly withholding reserves against album returns, underreporting record club royalties, delaying payment during computer system upgrades, and failure to pay royalties for foreign sales.

MP3 included

The suit also claims the Chicks are owed a portion of Sony’s reported $20 million settlement with music netco MP3.com, which ended the label’s portion of an industry suit claiming MP3’s digital locker service My.MP3.com violated record company copyrights.

The Chicks allege Sony has generated a total of $175 million in revenues from their records. The two Dixie Chicks albums released under the Sony contract, “Wide Open Spaces” and “Fly,” have sold 19 million copies in the U.S.

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