Two members of the group Survivor are suing Sony Music over royalties they say they’re owed from sales of “Eye Of The Tiger.” Frank Sullivan and James Peterick says, per a deal signed in 1978, the group is entitled to 50 percent of the money from sales of its licensed masters. While “licensed masters” is mostly record industry jargon, it basically means the number of times the record’s been streamed or sold on digital media. (In 1978, it probably meant jukebox plays.)
Survivor alleges that Sony has been counting downloads on services like iTunes and Amazon as “sales of records” rather than licenses, even though the music ostensibly exists in sort of a licensing limbo cloud. Survivor also claims that it’s never seen any money from Sony’s settlements with companies like Napster, Grokster, and Kazaa, where users have undoubtedly shared “Eye Of The Tiger” millions of times.
In their complaint, Sullivan and Peterick allege that a Sony representative told them that, should they file suit, the company would exercise its “nuclear option” and remove the band’s songs from iTunes all together, thus eliminating any potential for future revenue. The suit also claims that “by threatening ‘the nuclear option,’ Sony has conceded that its transaction with iTunes is a license subject to termination, and not a sale, of the Survivor masters to iTunes. If it was a sale, Sony would have no right to demand return of the songs.”
Besides compensatory damages, Sullivan and Peterick are seeking an injunction that would keep Sony from pulling its music from digital marketplaces.