After eight years of litigation, music industry giant Sony BMG Music Entertainment has settled a lawsuit filed by leading industry entertainment Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. In his lawsuit [case 3:05-CV00560(SRU), US District Court, Bridgeport, Connecticut], Walker alleged that the music industry giant refused to allow urban artists effective legal representation.
“We felt strongly all along that this was a case we had to fight in order to protect artists and their right to choose effective legal representation and other forms of representation including the best manager, attorney, publicist, accountant in protecting themselves as artists,” said Kenny Walker, spokesperson at the firm.
Filed nearly a decade ago in 2005, the Connecticut/Atlanta based Walker & Associates law firm alleged that Verity Records, Provident Distribution, Zomba (now owned by Sony), and Max Siegel, tortuously interfered with contractual relationships that the law firm had with dozens of artists. The case received national attention because no firm had challenged Sony before and won in this manner. (LA Times http://articles.latimes.com/2005/may/02/business/fi-gospel2). Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In the complaint (which is shown in full at http://www.walkerandassoc.com), the Plaintiffs named numerous examples of inappropriate conduct by Sony including intentionally omitting of the firm’s name on album credits, defamation about the firm, and a refusal to pay artists top dollars for the use of their copyrights and intellectual property.
For example, during 1999-2002, Walker had secured top payment for nearly 2 dozen artists on the popular “WOW Albums.” Then Sony reps, according to the lawsuit, instructed those artists to terminate Walker or face a possibility of not working on projects at the label.
Specifically, the lawsuit insisted that a number of well known clients were directly told not to use the top-rated attorney, including many high profile clients Walker represented like Grammy winners Hezekiah Walker, Donald Lawrence, and Twinkie Clark to name just a few. Legendary songwriters like David Frazier and V. Michael McKay were also told not to use Walker on their mega publishing and copyright deals, according to the suit.
“Often labels want artists to use attorneys that the labels can control –this avoids paying the artists their worth and saves the labels millions of dollars and is clearly a conflict of interest. When you decide to tell untruths about this firm and threaten our artists, you have crossed the line,” said Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. (@jameslwalkeresq).
Verity Records, now called RCA Inspirational, is the largest mainstream gospel label in the world. Based in New York, it is or has been home to gospel music stars Fred Hammond, Richard Smallwood, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, John P. Kee, and Marvin Sapp to name a few.
Walker has worked with some of the leading names in the music industry including Jamie Foxx, Freddie Jackson, Rick James, DMX, Shirley Caesar and BET’s Bobby Jones, among others. He recently co- chaired the legal team in the successful litigation and settlement between Disney’s Kyle and Chris Massey and A&E/Lifetime networks over the Bristol Palin show. Walker is the author of “This Business of Urban Music” (Random House/Billboard Books), the #1 urban legal reference book and teaches a very popular entertainment law related class, “Michael Jackson: The Business of Music” in Atlanta. Walker will also be headlining the T.B.O.U.M. Entertainment Book Camp this summer (http://www.thisbusinessofurbanmusic.com), which will educate artists, songwriters, and entertainment professionals on navigating the entertainment industry.
“The suit was not about money; it was about the rights of artists to have competent legal representation, be paid for their work, and the rights of artist representatives to work in this business without fear of intimidation and defamation.” said Walker business partner, J. Richard Byrd