Weird Al Yankovic, the Pioneer of Parodied music for a generation, has just settled a lawsuit with Sony Music Entertainment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the suit, which was between Sony and Al’s Ear Booker company, contended that Sony was improperly treating Al’s digital downloads as “sales” rather than “licenses.” This mistreatment caused Yankovic to only received about 15 percent of shared income from digital retailers and outlets instead of 50 percent. That difference allegedly resulted in Sony owing Al 1.5 million dollars, and causing his claim of breach of contract.
Based on an audit done on Yankovic’s behalf, the contract’s breach went beyond digital retail and outlet mismanagement to include several other improper charges. THR reports that the audit discovered additional mismanagement of marketing costs for various MTV and VH1 specials, underpayment on domestic publishing royalties, a failure to compensate him for goods given or discounted to retailers, and a failure to properly account for streaming transmissions like ringbacks, and underreporting sync income related to music used on TV shows around the world.
Details about the suit’s digital outlet management are significant because Yankovic cited Google’s 2006 purchase of YouTube, and a content licensing agreement that Sony had with the site at the time of the acquisition. According to the lawsuit, Sony was given an equity stake in YouTube in exchange for YouTube’s licensed distribution of Sony’s content. Al claimed that that his “White and Nerdy” music video was earning millions of views at the time of the deal, and it helped give Sony leverage in its agreement with You Tube. As a result, Yankovic demanded a piece of the Sony-YouTube deal in proportion to the value of his videos.
Similar demands of the suit included payments from licensing agreements that Sony established with third party partners like Spotify and VEVO. Others demanded a fair share from settlements related to the record industry’s disputes with peer-to-peer software companies like Napster, Kazaa, and Grokster. The estimated total was alleged to be in excess of $5 million. Documents filed by the parties in New York federal court this week to dismiss the case with prejudice don’t specify what Al actually received in the settlement.