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Kenny Rogers Files Lawsuit Against His Record Label

Kenny Rogers
Frederick Breedon, Getty Images

Kenny Rogers filed a federal lawsuit Monday (Feb. 13) against his label Capitol Records, claiming the label owes him money for digital music sales. He’s also claiming he is owed $400,000 from Capitol that he has yet to receive because of a number of accounting errors. According to the suit, the second part of the claim has been an ongoing battle since 2007.

As far as the digital music sales portion goes, Rogers alleges that the label was deliberate in leading him and other artists astray in details about what they were owed from the sale of their songs online, and he says he’s been being underpaid for more than 30 years now. The claim has become more of a common one in the industry since digital sales entered the picture.

The main discrepancy lies between the sale of music and the licensing of music. When an artist’s song is licensed for distribution, that artist shares a 50/50 split of the profit with the record label. When music is sold, however, the label is able to keep a larger portion of the profit. Eminem and Peter Frampton have filed similar suits in the past, and both succeeded in winning, with the courts establishing that music sold online is considered a licensing rather than a sale.

Though Rogers has not made clear the dollar amount he is hoping to recoup in this legal battle, he is putting his foot down and demanding that he receive the money he feels is rightly his. Richard Busch, a Nashville-based attorney who has been involved in bringing these lawsuits forward, told the Tennesseean that more are forthcoming. “We are being regularly contacted by artists who are raising this issue with us, and we are evaluating their contracts on a case-by-case basis,” he said. And as this occurs, major labels are going to have to continue to figure out how to navigate the ever-changing waters of the digital age.

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