Beatles Sue EMI For Royalties

Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and relatives of John Lennon and George Harrison are suing EMI for the recovery of more than £30 million (US$53 million) in unpaid royalties.

Legal proceedings began December 15 in the High Court in London and the Supreme Court in New York.

It’s the third time “The Beatles” have been in a legal wrangle with their record company, following a successful 1991 writ that led to London’s High Court blocking EMI from releasing a box set the band hadn’t approved.

Throughout the ’80s, the two sides were at odds as Apple accused EMI of screwing The Beatles out of millions in royalties from record giveaways to retailers. The two sides reached an out-of-court agreement in 1989.

“We have tried to reach a settlement through good faith negotiations and regret that our efforts have been in vain,” Apple’s Neil Aspinall stated, suggesting that a second out-of-court deal is out of the question.

“Despite very clear provision in our contracts, 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,” Aspinall added.

Newswires have quoted an EMI spokesperson playing things down by saying, “Artists occasionally request an audit of their record label’s accounts. That’s not unusual and we have no problem with it because we like to have full financial transparency.

“But sometimes there are differences of opinion. Very often the recording contracts are complex and there may be issues of contractual interpretation and in those rare situations, the result will be the parties go to court or mediation.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 audit problems are resolved by amicable settlements for a small fraction of the claim. We were in settlement negotiations for several months with them in this matter. We’ve offered to go to mediation, but Apple rejected that offer.”

EMI owns the copyright to The Beatles’ recordings in perpetuity but an audit of Apple’s accounts revealed that EMI hasn’t been fulfilling the terms of its contract.

The Beatles formed Apple Corps in 1968 to handle all the act’s business, which the company has continued to do since the band split in 1970. The company has a reputation for calling in the lawyers to safeguard the group’s financial legacy.

In September 2003, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer in the High Court over claims that the computer maker’s iPod music player and iTunes Music Store violate its trademark.

— John Gammon