Sony Music Entertainment sued by ‘American Idol’ firm over alleged unpaid royalties

19 Recordings claim artists including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have been underpaid

Sony Music Entertainment are being sued for allegedly cheating American Idol contestants including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood out of at least $10million (£6 million) in royalties.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday (February 20) in New York by 19 Recordings, a music company founded by Idol franchise creator Simon Fuller, now run by Core Media Group. The lawsuit claims 19 discovered the royalty issue from two separate audits of Sony’s records.

“We did not want to have to file this lawsuit, but Sony left us no choice, so this became necessary to protect our artists,” 19 Entertainment worldwide head of music Jason Morey told The Hollywood Reporter. “Our complaint lays out the claims in great detail. Everything we have to say about the case is set forth in it.”

The claim deals specifically with royalties from streaming, and says Sony is accounting for the exploitation of master recordings as “sales” or “distributions” rather than as “broadcasts” or “transmissions,” which would pay a higher rate of royalty. 19 also allege that Sony have made other improper deductions over music videos, compilation albums, foreign income tax and use of 19 artists’ music in films and TV shows, among other claims.

Other artists named in the suit include Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry and Jordin Sparks. Lawyer Richard Busch, of the Nashville firm King & Ballow, says the legal action was necessary to protect the rights of 19’s artists. A Sony spokeswoman said she had no comment on the lawsuit.