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Four Tet vs. Domino: the artist resolves the copyright dispute against the label

Electronic musician Four Tet, (Kieran Hebden), settled a legal dispute with Domino Records over a deal he signed with the label in 2001.

Hebden said Domino, the indie label hosting rock stars like Arctic Monkeys, misinterpreted its deal when it came to the share of streaming revenue it was supposed to get.

The argument boiled down to both parties’ interpretation of the definition of “sale” versus “license” in his contract.

Domino was paying Hebden 18% of the revenue generated from its records on streaming platforms, but said it should have gotten 50% under the terms of the contract.

The contract did not specify the revenue from streaming, because streaming was not a mass-market proposition at the time of signing the contract, but it did include an 18% royalty rate for download sales, which Domino says should also apply to downloads. stream.

Hebden said, however, that the flows should be paid at a royalty rate of 50% under the terms of the licensing revenues within his contract.

In a statement released via Twitter today, Hebden announced that Domino has now acknowledged its original claim, that “they should receive a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads and that they should be treated as a license rather than a sale of CDs or vinyls.”

Hebden’s agreement stipulated that revenues generated by “licensees from outside the UK” – will see a 50% royalty rate paid to the artist and, if Domino licenses “any recording below for use on a flat rate – that is, any basis other than one of a royalty per record based on the price of the registration, then [the] the company will be accountable to [the] artist for 50% of the net proceeds received by it “.

Hebden argued that he should have received a 50% royalty rate for flows under this licensing terminology, but Domino initially argued that Hebden had misinterpreted the terminology.

In a document published by Hebden on Twitter showing a transaction offer from Domino, the music company offered to pay the artist a transaction of £ 56,921.08, “calculated as the difference between the royalties that would have been payable at the rate of the 50% you request and what has been paid at the rate of 18% to date ”.

In addition, going forward, Domino has offered to pay a royalty rate of 50% “on all streaming and download revenue with respect to which [Domino] has not yet accounted for [Hebden]”.

“They acknowledged my original claim that I should receive a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads and that they should be treated as a license rather than a sale of CDs or vinyls.”

Kieran Hebden

In a series of tweets, Hebden said, “I have a bodacious update on my case with @Dominorecordco. They acknowledged my original claim, that I should receive a 50% royalty on streaming and downloads, and that they should be treated as a license rather than a sale of CDs or vinyls.

“It has been a difficult and stressful experience working on this court case and I am so happy that we have achieved this positive result, but I am extremely relieved that the trial is over.

“We hope we have opened a constructive dialogue and perhaps prompted others to push for a fairer deal on historic contracts, written at a time when the music industry operated in a completely different way.

“I really hope my own course of action encourages anyone who might feel intimidated by challenging a record label with substantial means.

Hebden added: “Unlike Domino, I didn’t work with a large law firm and luckily the case took place in the IPEC court (where legal fees are limited), so I was able to hold my position.

“Unfortunately Domino still owns parts of my lifetime catalog with copyright and would not give me the opportunity to take back ownership.

“I hope this kind of copyright agreement life dies out – the music industry is not definitive and given its evolutionary nature it seems foolish to me to try to institutionalize music that way.

“I feel so grateful for the people who have worked with me on this, they all understand my motivation and I am truly grateful for all the fans and artists who have shown support for the intention here.”

The conclusion of Hebden’s lawsuit against Domino could set a precedent for some of the issues discussed on opposite sides of the UK music streaming economics debate last year.

In January 2021, a UK inter-party parliamentary group called the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (DMCS), conducted a survey on the Economics of Music Streaming, the results of which led to an important report critical to the label released in July.

In early December, a politician on that committee – Labor politician Kevin Brennan – proposed a copyright bill, which was rejected, containing a series of changes to the law that would have benefited artists in monetary terms. .

Under Brennan’s proposed “Contract Adjustment Amendment”, an author could claim “additional, fair and reasonable compensation from the person with whom he entered into a contract for the exploitation of his rights … in the event that the compensation originally agreed is disproportionately low compared to all subsequent revenues derived from the exploitation of rights “.

In other words, a songwriter or artist – such as Kieran Hebden – could potentially renegotiate the terms of an old agreement with a label or publisher – such as Domino – by law, if the initially agreed remuneration was deemed “disproportionately low” compared to the industry standard when they wish to renegotiate.

Furthermore, Brennan’s bill proposed that “fair remuneration” should be incorporated into UK law, which would see ER applying to streams, aligning how artists receive their streaming royalties with how where royalties are paid to artists by UK radio broadcasts.

Currently, 50% of UK radio recorded music royalties are paid directly to artists through a collection company, bypassing agreements with artists’ record labels and thus also circumventing any reimbursement charges that those artists might owed to their label (s) for previously paid advances.Music business around the world

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