Radiohead sue Parlophone over unauthorised deductions

December 2015

Recorded Music, Artistes



Radiohead are suing their former record label, Parlophone, over a deduction of £744,000 from digital download royalties which had been paid to the band from 2008 and 2009 sales, and which they contend were unauthorised. Radiohead’s contract with Parlophone ended in 2003 with the album Hail to the Thief. At the time the deductions were made the band were signed to EMI – but that catalogue has now moved to Warners.


Explaining the case, lawyer Howard Ricklow from Collyer Bristow said: “Most recording contracts contain a provision that royalties for recordings on ‘future formats’ will be paid at a rate to be agreed. The band contends that no such rate was agreed with Parlophone for digital downloads and that the deductions made in 2008 and 2009 for costs apparently incurred in 1992 and 1998, long before the advent of digital downloads, were in breach of the contract”.
Warner Music had tried to have the matter dismissed on the basis that there is a contractual time limit for the band to dispute deductions made against their royalties, and that deadline had passed. But Radiohead’s team argued that, as there was no specific agreement about the band’s digital royalties, there was no deadline on disputes either – a position the High Court agreed with.
Commenting on the dispute, and its potential impact, Ricklow wrote: “It’s virtually impossible for anyone to predict how we’ll be listening to music in ten or fifteen years’ time, but it’s certainly possible to honour contractual agreements over royalties for recordings, no matter what format they are in. This case is particularly ironic, given that Parlophone went through very similar legal issues with the Beatles in the 1980s when CDs were a new media format”.


He continues: “The fact that Radiohead are no longer contracted to Parlophone may well have played a role in how Parlophone has approached this issue – record labels have no reason not to squeeze every penny out of recordings by artists that are not on their roster anymore, especially as the value of recordings continues to fall. The fact that this case is now moving forward may well encourage other artists to mount legal challenges against record labels over their royalty payment practices, but only the biggest acts are likely to have the funds to be able to do it”. and

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