Songwriter Sues Record Labels for Part of MP3 Deal

By | October 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Country music songwriter Paul Overstreet has sued several record labels alleging they owe him part of a settlement reached with online music company, his attorney said on Tuesday.

In the 2000 deal with Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Music, Bertelsmann AG’s BMG and Sony Corp’s Sony Music, agreed to pay each major record company a reported $20 million to settle copyright infringement claims related to its service.

Sony Music and Warner Music declined comment. A representative of BMG was not immediately available.

Scarlet Moon Music Inc, a music publishing firm that owns and controls the compositions by Overstreet, filed the proposed class action suit on Oct. 16 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit claims that Scarlet Moon, as a lead plaintiff, co-owns one or more copyrights on musical compositions with the music publishing arms of the labels, including “Trains Make Me Lonesome,” “Safe Haven” and “One of Those Things.”

The suit alleges the labels failed to share profits with Overstreet that they obtained as a result of the settlement on his songs.

Overstreet’s lawyer, Bruce Van Dalsem, said the suit was similar to another suit filed last year by Scarlet Moon against the Harry Fox Agency, a licensing arm for thousands of music publishers, which also settled with and failed to share its part of some $32 million.

Van Dalsem said Scarlet Moon did not sue EMI Music or Vivendi Universal’s Universal because their settlements were structured differently, but could not elaborate because of an existing protective order on the deals.

Vivendi Universal wound up buying in 2001 at a time when the major music companies were ramping up their own online offerings as an alternative to song-swapping services like Napster.