Jay Z’s Company Slapped With $5 Million-Plus Lawsuit Over Artists’ Royalties

Complaint alleges that royalties from Tidal streams were “”systematically undercut” via “illegal deals with equity investor partners”

Jay Z’s problem meter just clicked over to 100.

Aspiro, the parent company of the rapper/mogul’s streaming service, Tidal, has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit claiming that the service is infringing on artists’ copyrights and stiffing them on royalties from Tidal streams.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Yesh Music and John K. Emanuele say Aspiro “systematically undercut the calculation of mechanical royalties” via “illegal deals with equity investor partners.”

The suit, which also names Jay Z’s S. Carter Enterprises and Black Panther Bidco as defendants, also claims that the companies failed to obtain mechanical licenses for the plaintiffs’ work as “part of an egregious, calculated and ongoing campaign of deliberate copyright infringement.”

Emanuele, who says he released a collection of songs under the name Zero Bedroom Apartment, says he hasn’t been paid royalties from Tidal, while Yesh, music publisher for the band The American Dollar, claims to have received reduced royalties from the service.

The suit claims that the amount in controversy “exceeds the sum or value of $5 million.”

Tidal denied the allegations in a statement to TheWrap.

“Tidal is up to date on all royalties for the rights to the music stated in Yesh Music, LLC and John Emanuele’s claim and they are misinformed as to who, if anyone, owes royalty payments to them,” a Tidal spokesman said. “Their dispute appears to be over the mechanical licenses, which we are also up to date on payments via Harry Fox Agency our administrator of mechanical royalties.”

Tidal added, “The entire catalogue in question streamed fewer than 13,000 times on Tidal and its predecessor over the past year.” The spokesman added that Tidal has removed all music by the plaintiffs from its service.

Nonetheless, the suit accuses the defendants of “deliberately miscalculating the per-stream royalty rates by including millions of streams Defendants do not pay royalties [for] in the calculation. This diluted the paid per-stream rate for royalty payment by up to 35 percent.”

Alleging copyright infringement and underpayment of royalties, the plaintiffs are asking for the suit to be certified as a class-action matter, and for unspecified damages.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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