Pink Floyd win important battle with EMI

April 2010

Internet, record labels

In what looks like an interesting decision, the High Court has upheld a claim by Pink Floyd that their label EMI had no right to allow iTunes to sell individual tracks from the band’s albums – and that the label had to adhere to a contract that prohibited single track sales in any format – physical or digital. The label had argued that a 19667 (renewed in 1999) contract clause between the artist and the label which prohibited single track sales was clearly limited to the physical realm as it referred to “records”. The argument that the 1999 contract predated the digital market in some way was something the band, famed for their ‘concept’ albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall were strongly opposed to  and the High Court agreed that EMI’s argument was clearly nonsensical with Sir Andrew Morritt VC granting the band a declaration saying that the contract meant that EMI is not entitled to exploit recordings by online distribution or by any other means other than as the complete original album without Pink Floyd’s consent, accepting that the purpose of a clause in the contract, drawn up more than a decade ago, was to “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums.” EMI put a bright spin on things saying “Today’s judgment does not require EMI to cease making Pink Floyd’s catalogue available as single track downloads, and EMI continues to sell Pink Floyd’s music digitally and in other formats. This litigation has been running for well over a year and most of its points have already been settled. This week’s court hearing was around the interpretation of two contractual points, both linked to the digital sale of Pink Floyd’s music. But there are further arguments to be heard on this and the case will go on for some time”.

However and even more interestingly, there is a second contractual point in dispute which relates to digital royalties. This is actually potentially the more important of the disputes here but usually EMI insisted that the court hearing be held in private – citing commercial confidentiality requirements – so we cannot report on the specifics of the royalties disagreement.  Later in the month another claim surfaced in the USA with an action brought by Bluewater Music Services gainst EMI Music North America, again regarding royalty payments, here to songwriters including the Doobie Brohers and Chris LeDoux.

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