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The Beatles sue EMI over disputed royalties

Suit claims record label failed to complete transparent audits
/ Source: Reuters

Echoing their song “You Never Give Me Your Money,” The Beatles have sued record company EMI Group, claiming that they are owed $53.1 million in royalties after negotiations broke down.

Apple Records — owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison — said on Friday that an audit determined that EMI has not been fulfilling the terms of its contract.

EMI owns the copyright to The Beatles recordings in perpetuity.

“Despite very clear provisions in our contract, EMI persist in ignoring their obligations and duty to account fairly and with transparency. Apple and The Beatles are, once again, left with no choice but to sue EMI,” Apple Records said in a statement.

Lawsuits were filed on Thursday against EMI in London and against its Capitol Records subsidiary in New York after the parties failed to reach a deal.

“Artists do sometimes request an audit of their record label’s accounts, that’s not unusual, but sometimes there are differences of opinion, especially when the contracts are large and complex, when you can get issues of contractual interpretation,” an EMI spokeswoman said.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 audit problems are resolved by amicable settlements for a small fraction of the claim,” she said.

Apple Records and EMI have already fought a decade-long courtroom battle, over royalties and other issues, which was resolved out of court in 1989. Apple Records claimed that EMI secretly sold or gave away millions of records to retailers.

The dispute over royalties follows a settlement of more than $50 million paid to dozens of artists by a group of music companies including EMI, Universal Music Group, Sony Music, BMG and Warner Music. The 2004 deal centred on unclaimed royalties and was brokered by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Apple Records has also filed lawsuits in the past against Nike Inc for using the Beatles song “Revolution” in a commercial, and against Apple Computer in a trademark dispute.