Jazz Legend Lawyers Swing Into Action

Lawyers acting for the estates of such famous U.S. swing acts as Count Basie and Benny Goodman are suing Universal Music, saying they have been cheated out of more than US$6 million worth of royalties.

The artists, who also include Woody Herman, Frankie Laine and Sarah Vaughan, have filed a lawsuit in New York State Court that charges the French-owned music group with breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The claim is for royalties due since 1998.

Many of the artists were signed to recording companies that were later bought by Universal, which has already put out a statement saying the legal action is "baseless" and that the company is confident it will "prevail in court."

The lawsuit alleges that Universal, which is required to submit at least biannual reports of sales and earnings for each artist, provided false information throughout the accounting period of May 1999 through February 2007.

It claims Universal hasn’t provided all the records needed to calculate the losses, and that the company has "systematically underpaid royalties" since 1998.

It also accuses Universal of engaging in "pervasive and systematic acts of using false statements" to conceal the complete earnings of the artists.