Incubus filed suit against Sony Music on Thursday seeking to be released from their recording contract with Sony subsidiary Epic Records.
The suit – filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica on behalf of singer Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, drummer Jose Pasillas and bassist Alex Katunich – asks a judge to allow them to set aside their original deal, which they claim they have satisfied.
“This isn’t Courtney Love or some other artists where we’re walking away from a deal,” said the band’s manager, Steve Rennie, referring to a suit settled last year in which Love sought to rescind her deal with Universal Records subsidiary Geffen. “We are seeking the right to be free agents because we believe we’ve met our obligations, and there’s nothing to say that we won’t turn around and re-sign with Sony. They’re the #1 candidate for the next seven years.”
Rennie acknowledged that under their current seven-album contract, Incubus owe Sony four more albums; the band will reach its seven-year anniversary with the label this summer. As part of their suit, Incubus are seeking to establish their rights under California Labor Code Section 2855, the so-called seven-year statute which bars personal service contracts in excess of seven years.
The statute is sometimes referred to as the De Havilland Law, in honor of late screen legend Olivia de Havilland, who in the 1950s fought to have most entertainment employment contracts in California limited to seven years. In 1987 the Recording Industry Association of America successfully lobbied for an exemption to the law, allowing labels to sue artists for damages from undelivered albums.
Incubus signed with Sony imprint Immortal Records in 1996 and have been in renegotiation talks with the label for eight months, Rennie said.
A Sony spokesperson would not comment, but the record company released a statement Thursday in response to the suit. “We have the highest regard for Incubus and their music and take great pride in the work we have done together to build a worldwide audience for them,” it read. “Incubus are signed to an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music.”
“Under current standard industry practice, Sony Music has been handsomely rewarded financially during this period,” read a statement from the band’s management, “while the members of Incubus have received relatively little financial compensation from their creative and professional efforts in connection with the sale of their music.”
The standard recording industry contract is for seven albums, which, given the typical two- to three-year cycle of recording and promotion, could tie an artist to a label for anywhere from 14 to 21 years, according to the Recording Artists Coalition, an artists’ rights group.
While the case runs its legal course, Incubus continue to work on songs for their new album, with no plans to enter the studio at this time, Rennie said. The album will follow up Incubus’ third full-length release for Sony, 2001’s Morning View.