Hawthorne Heights Sues Victory

Hawthorne Heights has filed suit against Victory Records and owner Tony Brummel, seeking unspecified damages and the rights to all material released by the label under the band’s name.

The suit, filed in an Illinois District Court August 7th, comes less than six months after a well-publicized snafu surrounding the opening week of the group’s latest album, If Only You Were Lonely. Hawthorne Heights street team members received an e-mail in February instructing them to go into stores and intentionally misplace copies of a competing release by R&B artist Ne-Yo while moving If Only You Were Lonely to more prominent displays.

Another e-mail, signed with the band’s name, urged fans to help take “rock music back to the top of the charts where it belongs.”

Hawthorne Heights members later said the messages were penned by Victory representatives without their knowledge. Victory apologized, calling the original e-mail a joke, and street-team coordinator Abby Valentine resigned.

After filing suit, Hawthorne Heights released a statement titled “The REAL Manifesto,” announcing that the band had left Victory and detailing many of its grievances with Brummel.

“At the time of the letters we were branded as racists by some, all over a letter we did NOT write, targeting a genre which we have NOTHING against whatsoever,” the letter said.

The lawsuit alleges that the band has “become irreparably associated in the public mind with Brummel’s conduct.”

Also among the group’s complaints are accusations that the label filed false copyrights, issued fraudulent royalty statements, and sabotaged a deal between the band and retailer Hot Topic.

The band also claims that despite sales of 1.2 million for its two albums, Victory has not handed over $1 in royalties.

“Tony (Brummel) will claim that we have not ‘recouped,’ a term used by those in the music business which means the label has spent more money in advertising than has been made by CD sales,” HH said in its manifesto. “In fact, questionable accounting practices are the culprit and we are in fact owed substantial amounts of money much like audits from Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and Atreyu have uncovered.”

Taking Back Sunday and Thursday have left the label and are signed with Warner Bros. and Island Def Jam respectively.

According to the suit, the band had a non-exclusive contract with Victory that it terminated August 3rd, but the label has continued to sell the band’s music and use its trademark.

The suit requests a declaration of the band’s right to record for other labels, the cancellation of copyrights “fraudulently obtained” by Victory, and an injunction stopping the label from “marketing, promoting, distributing, or selling recordings, musical compositions, or any other materials delivered by Hawthorne Heights.”

The band is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in addition to attorneys’ fees.

Victory Records had not released a statement at press time.