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Rick James Sues UMG Over Digital Royalties

SUPER-FREAK SUIT: In the wake of a Sept. decision that rewarded higher digital royalties to Eminem, a federal class action suit has been filed by the late Rick James’ estate against Universal Music Group, seeking higher payouts for James and other heritage performers who may yet join the case. The decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena ruled that digital downloads constitute licenses and not sales, and thus were subject to a higher royalty rate. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case, affirming the earlier decision. Many artists who signed before the digital era have not had their agreements revised since. James, who signed with Motown, now part of UMG, in 1977 and 1979, died in 2004. David Given at Phillips, Erlewine & Given LLP is litigating the suit on behalf of the James estate. A UMG spokesman responded to the class action: "The complaint filed by the estate of Rick James suffers from many infirmities, not the least of which is that the claims asserted are not appropriate for class treatment. We intend to vigorously defend against it." James' estate is repped by Jeff Jampol's JAM Inc. (4/4p)

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