Richard Carpenter has pulled out the big guns and sued Universal Music Group, alleging that they owe him over $2 million in past royalties for the Carpenters music.
The suit, which was also filed for the estate of Karen Carpenter, is the latest in a long line of actions that have been brought by artists against record companies since 2010 when Eminem won a lawsuit against his company for higher royalties on music downloaded digitally.
The contention has been that downloads are licenses and not a sale for ownership. Artists averaged a payment of 12% on the sales of their recordings but received upwards of 50% for licensing deals. Peter Frampton, Sister Sledge, the Temptations, Toto, Styx and many others had brought suit in past years.
Richard Carpenter wrote in a statement that he had tried but failed at settling with the company out of court.
“The Carpenters recordings are among the best sellers in the history of popular music and after 48 years continue to contribute a substantial amount to UMG/A&M’s annual bottom line. It seems only fair that these companies account fairly to my sister’s estate and to me.”
Carpenter’s attorney, Larry Iser, said “It is unfortunate that the Carpenters were forced to file this lawsuit primarily over an issue that has already been resolved by the courts — but which these record companies still refuse to acknowledge — that digital downloads occur pursuant to license and are not sales of records.”
The stakes are high as the Carpenters’ catalog still sells well to this day. Over the course of eleven years, from 1970 to 1981, they hit the top twenty seventeen times and number 1 with (They Long to Be) Close to You, Top of the World and Please Mr. Postman.