Allman band sues Universal over digital royalties

Gregg Allman performs during the 2007 "Farm Aid" concert in New York September 9, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of The Allman Brothers Band sued UMG Recordings for more than $10 million on Monday over royalties from compact discs sales and digital downloads services such as Apple’s iTunes.

The lawsuit seeks payments from the sale of some of the U.S. Southern rock group’s songs recorded for its first label, Capricorn Records, from 1969 to 1980 when the band enjoyed such hits as “Jessica,” “Ramblin’ Man” and “Midnight Rider.”

Band members Greg Allman, Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, Butch Trucks and Dickey Betts were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for UMG Recordings, part of Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, was not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, said UMG “refuses to pay Plaintiffs at the correct royalty rate for its digital exploitation of the Capricorn Masters,” including from compact discs, digital downloads and ringtones.

The agreement dated back to a 1985 agreement between the band and Polygram, which Universal bought, that said the band would be paid half of profits from the sale of records by third parties such as Apple’s iTunes or any other commercial usage not specified in the agreement, the lawsuit said.

It said UMG had paid only a small fraction of what the band deserved, refused to renegotiate royalties for digital downloads and ringtones and had “wanton disregard” for obligations of the agreement.

“UMG incurs practically no expenses or risks in connection with the Masters, particularly with respect to licensing other companies such as Apple to create and distribute digital downloads ... yet UMG reaps millions of dollars every year from such exploitation,” the lawsuit said.

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Philip Barbara