Elvis Presley Estate Sues Arista over Digital Royalties
Published Sep 02, 2011The estate of late rock'n'roll legend Elvis Presley has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Arista Music in Germany over unpaid digital royalties. The lawsuit claims that the company has been stuffing the estate since 2002 via the sales of MP3s, ringtones, and apps featuring Presley's music.
The suit complains that the King of Rock and Roll "was unjustly exploited during his lifetime by his record company," when it bought out his catalogue for $5.4 million in 1973. The buyout agreement, which nullified all previous business deals, apparently means that Presley's estate is paid just $10 to $15 per song annually for the worldwide rights to over 1,000 songs. The staggering snafu of a deal was said to be negotiated by "Colonel" Tom Parker.
While the current contract likely limits the estate from collecting on traditional record sales, the creation of new media tools could serve as a loophole to the deal since entrants into the contract couldn't have anticipated the technological shift. As the lawsuit states of ringtones and MP3s, "Presley himself could not have dreamed [they] would someday exist."
Trustees have called Arista's dealings "conspicuously disproportionate" and are seeking a larger share of future revenue until 2023, when the record company's copyright claim expires.
Arista, a branch of Sony, has yet to comment on the case.
Thanks to Billboard for the tip.