Backstreet Boys Sue Zomba Seeking $100 Million

By | November 27, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The Backstreet Boys say they are the victim of boardroom politics and are fighting back with a $100 million lawsuit against their record label.

They have sued Zomba Music Group, saying the record label effectively barred the group from recording a new album because of a preoccupation with a now-completed merger with German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

A lawyer for the boy band, one of Zomba’s biggest acts, said on Tuesday the group was seeking $75 million for violation of trademark, $5 million for a lost advance and at least $20 million in punitive damages in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan.

“They’ve been using the Backstreet Boys’ trademark to shuttle traffic to other Web sites,” Carla Christofferson, the band’s lawyer said, adding that Zomba’s right to use the trademark was limited to promoting records by the band.

Officials for both Zomba and Bertelsmann declined comment.

The lawsuit filed on Monday charges that Zomba had promised a $5 million advance to the group if they completed a fourth album by April 2002, with the full participation of all five band members.

But the suit said Zomba then made that deadline impossible by withholding approval of producers and songwriters.

“They were busy negotiating their deal with Bertelsmann and were not available at all. They were withholding approval rights and the band could not move forward,” Christofferson said.


The lawsuit alleges that rather than release the fourth album, Zomba decided to produce and promote a solo album by one of the band members, Nick Carter.

“We are committed to the Backstreet Boys, and we will protect our group from anybody or anything that tries to break us apart,” the band said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are disappointed that our longtime label has attempted to irresponsibly exploit our group. The five of us are writing for our new CD and setting concert dates for our upcoming worldwide summer tour,” the group said.

Between 1994 and 2001, the Backstreet Boys produced and released three albums through Zomba’s Jive records, which sold more than 65 million copies, the lawsuit says.

“The success of the Backstreet Boy albums revitalized a musical genre and provided a springboard for Zomba and its label Jive records to capitalize on other popular artists who followed in its wake,” the complaint says.

Earlier on Tuesday, Clive Calder, the press-shy mastermind behind such pop stars as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and ‘NSync, cashed out and walked away from his Zomba label in a $2.74 billion deal with German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

Bertelsmann said Calder was resigning as chairman and chief executive of the Zomba Music Group he founded in the 1970s but would remain in a part-time advisory role.

Zomba leaves behind its ranking as the world’s biggest independent label as it moves under the umbrella of BMG, home to stars such as Christina Aguilera and the Foo Fighters and a catalog including Elvis Presley.

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