The AFM has filed a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. for collective bargaining agreement violations regarding the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA). The SRLA covers wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment for professional musicians in the creation of sound recordings. Among multiple violations named in the suit was recording work on the 2009 docomentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It, made just before Jackson’s death. Sony called the musicians for a recording session, which it claimed was for a “record” (defined as CDs, records, tapes, music videos, or concert DVDs), when the actual purpose was the recording of a film score. The SRLA Sony signed only covered recording for records, and prohibited recording for film scores. While Sony could have signed a letter that would allow them to use the AFM Motion Picture Agreement for this recording session, the company refused. As a result musicians are unable to collect residuals on the film.
This discrepancy may seem small to the public, but it makes a huge difference in terms of fair compensation to musicians trying to earn a living, explains AFM President Ray Hair. “Musicians have joined together to create industry standards and it is simply unacceptable for greedy corporations to knowingly violate those standards and deny residuals,” he says.
The suit also charges Sony with failure to make “new use” payments to musicians as required under the SRLA for the incorporation of covered sound recordings into new sound recordings and electronic media. Among other projects named in the lawsuit were: Pitbull’s 2012 version of Michael Jackson’s “Bad”; use of the Earth, Wind & Fire song “Boogie Woogie Wonderland” in the 2012 movie The Untouchables; use of the 17 songs from Tony Bennett: Duets II in a 2012 program broadcast on National Public Television; and use of recorded live televised performances of Whitney Houston accompanied by instrumental musicians (covered by the AFM Television Videotape Agreement) to produce a CD and CD/DVD set called Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances.
“We did not want to go to court,” says Hair, “but Sony repeatedly refused to do the right thing and pay the musicians fairly.