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Chuck D files suit against Universal Music over digital royalties

It's been years since Public Enemy released a creatively vital album, but the group still makes money, and frontman Chuck D believes he's not getting his fair cut from Universal Music Group. The rapper filed a class action suit against the record company on Wednesday, alleging that Public Enemy has been shortchanged for years on royalties from digital downloads. Chuck D asserts that downloads should be treated as "licenses," which allows for artists to take a bigger share of royalties. UMG currently counts downloads as "sales," which typically affords artists between 10 and 20 percent of the money. (Licenses split the royalty in half, between artist and record company.)

Similar cases have been filed against UMG by the Allman Brothers and producers associated with Eminem, who have argued that the deals that record companies have made with online retailers like iTunes are a form of licensing. Last year, a judge ruled in the Eminem case that digital songs should be counted as licenses.

Chuck D is suing Universal in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, where a judge this week ruled against dismissing a similar suit involving Rick James' estate and others. [via the New York Times]

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