Artists Larry Heard and Richard Owens filed a federal copyright lawsuit on June 23 against Trax Records. Two days later, TaP Music Publishing announced that it was co-funding the lawsuit.
Understood, known professionally as “Mr. Fingers “and Owens said in court documents filed in the northern district of Illinois that their lawsuit highlights the exploitation of artists and their works, including unpaid royalties for various musical compositions and sound recordings that they created in the 80s.
Heard and Owens are also suing Trax Records president Rachael Cain, known professionally as “Screamin’ Rachael “.
They accuse Trax of “building its catalog by taking advantage of house music artists and unsophisticated but creative songwriters by making them sign their copyright on their musical works for derisory sums in advance and promising royalties continued throughout the life of the copyright, “According to their complaint.
They are suing Trax for damages that are expected to exceed $ 1 million.
Heard has created works as known for his songs “Washing Machine”, “Can You Feel It”, “Beyond the Clouds”, “Donnie” and Distant Planet. Owens co-wrote several songs, including “Bring Down the Walls”, “Never No More Lonely” and “Bye-Bye”, but they claim that they were never properly compensated for their musical work by Trax Records.
Owens and Heard included copyright documents in their lawsuits which they claim show that their songs were also registered with Trax as the copyright holder. For many of the songs, they said that they had not received any accounting or payment from Trax.
“Talented but unrepresented musicians starving for their first break have been lulled into a business relationship with an unscrupulous record label who made promises she never intended to keep and disguised as paternalistic benefactors for these artists – like a wolf in sheep’s clothing “, according to the complaint.
TaP Music co-director Ben Mawson said they decided to partially fund the trial because they were passionate about electronic music. Mawson said in a statement provided to Billboard “We are delighted to be able to support their claim against Trax Records, which has behaved abominably over the years towards many artists signed with them. We ask these affected artists to contact us and we will do our best to support them. Hopefully those who control Trax now decide to do the right thing, after many years of shocking disregard for their artists. ”
Larry Heard has released the following statement regarding his trial against Trax. “After making several releases independently, it was so disappointing that my first adventures in the world of music were with a community label that turned out to be dishonest, like with many other artists we hear too much about. often speak. We are just looking for justice and fairness. Perhaps, “Heard continues,” our efforts will shed light on the many predatory practices that have been in place for a long time in this industry. ”
However, Rick Darke of Duane Morris LLP, lawyer for the president of Trax Cain, responded to the trial by saying that she had been fighting for 15 years to get artists like Heard and Owen, citing a long legal dispute with a Canadian investor, Casablanca Trax Inc Casablanca obtained the rights and licenses for music from artists like Heard, and then transferred the rights to another entity. Although Cain has since prevailed on appeal, the responsible parties have not paid, said Darke.
“Rachael Cain has been fighting for a long time to get these artists paid,” said Darke. “She just didn’t get the money from the responsible parties to pay them. ”
“Cain adds:” From the very beginning, I have been promoting House music, Trax Records and our artists. As an artist, I can fully understand and feel their frustration. Since 2002 Trax Records has had no control over the classic Trax catalog we want. I want them to know that I did not have control of the classics and that I fought to get them paid. ”
Robert Meloni, litigation lawyer at Meloni & McCaffrey, interprets: “During my 40 years of practicing music law, it was not so rare to find record companies not respecting their agreements with artists, especially African American artists. ” He “Larry Heard and Robert Owens have launched this lawsuit to begin the process of redressing the harm they have suffered, hopefully it will inspire other African Americans in a similar situation to defend their rights as well. “