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Four Tet is taking legal action against Domino over streaming payments

09 August 2021, 13:13 | Written by Cerys Kenneally

Four Tet, real name Kieran Hebden, has launched legal action against Domino Records over a streaming royalties rate on his contract that predates the streaming era.

According to Music Week, Hebden's contract with Domino was signed in February 2001, way before streaming services like Spotify (2008) were launched, and is now seeking a higher royalty rate for music released in the noughties.

Music Week reports that in legal documents, Four Tet currently receives 18% for streams and downloads, and is looking to have it raised. He is also reportedly "seeking damages of up to £70,000 plus costs over the claim for historical streaming and download royalties, as well as a legal judgement on the 50% rate."

According to the piece, Hebden's lawyers have stated that "a reasonable royalty rate…has at all material times been at least 50 per cent".

One clause in his 2001 contract states: "In respect of the exploitation of the Masters and any videos embodying the Masters and received by us from our licensees outside the UK we shall credit your audio and audio-visual royalty accounts respectively with 50% of all royalties and fees arising from such exploitation."

Music Week reports that Domino has rejected that claim, and instead pointed to a different clause in the contract which reads: "In respect of records sold in new technology formats other than vinyl, Compact Discs and analogue tape cassettes the royalty rate shall be 75% of the otherwise applicable rate." Going by that clause, Domino has argued that streaming and digital downloads are a form of "new technology", and that Hebden was only entitled to 75% of his original rate. Domino Records has paid the full 18% at their discretion.

The record label added, "Streaming was not, as at the date of the 2001 Agreement, a mainstream method for the lawful distribution of recorded music and was not as at that date within the contemplation of the parties."

Neither Four Tet or Domino have commented on the case publicly, which has the potential to be an exemplary model for streaming royalty rate disputes in the future, especially for contracts signed in the pre-streaming era.

Visit musicweek.com to read the full report.
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