Chuck D, leader and co-founder of conscious rap group Public Enemy, is taking Universal Music Group to court. According to the rapper, Universal has been underpaying him in royalties.
The lawsuit stems from a dispute over digital sales of Chuck D’s music. Earlier this year, Eminem prevailed in a lawsuit after maintaining songs sold online should count as licenses rather than physical sales, thereby paying the artist 50 percent of royalties rather than the meager 12 percent granted to physical sales. Following this precedent, Chuck D is arguing that Universal has been counting his digitally distributed MP3s and ringtones as physical record sales rather than licenses, thereby swindling him out of over half of the royalty amount he should be receiving.
Chuck D filed the complaint against Universal in a San Francisco federal court. It is speculated that Universal has underpaid artist royalties by hundreds of millions of dollars. The rapper’s decision to take legal action follows an emerging trend of artists bringing similar class action suits against record companies: Similar lawsuits brought forth by Rob Zombie and the estate of Rick James are currently moving forward in court.