Class Action Accuses Warner Music of Shortchanging Artists for Digital Download Royalties


East Bay soul funk legend Tower of Power filed a class-action lawsuit against Warner Music on Tuesday, charging that the record label Warner Music, Inc. stiffed them out of music royalties by mischaracterizing digital downloads as sales, instead of licenses that pay artists a much higher premium.

Tower of Power co-founders Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka’s breach of contract case charges that their 1972 agreement (the ‘Agreement’) with Warner Music entitles the band to 50% of gross receipts for Warner’s redistribution by digital downloads download via third parties.

Warner, the band contends, intentionally mischaracterizes these digital downloads as sales to pay them at a ten-percent (10%) royalty rate under the ‘sold’ equation of the parties’ original 1972 Agreement.

Tower of Power says that forty years later, Warner is improperly calculating lower royalty rates not only for themselves, but also for scores of artists that the record label signed.

The lawsuit seeks damages in the “tens of millions of dollars, if not more,” injunctive relief, as well as an accounting of every one of Warners Music’s recording contracts and corresponding royalty rates with other artists.

Follow the case docket here, and read Tower of Power’s lawsuit below:

Class Action Complaint (Emilio Castillo, Stephen Kupka, Tower of Power, et al. v. Warner Music Group, Corp.)