In previous articles, I’ve noted that Elvis Presley Enterprises has been aggressive in pursuing the late singer’s interests in court.
How’s this for a new example: Elvis Presley Enterprises is suing Elvis’ old record label, claiming Arista Music, formerly RCA Records, “unjustly exploited” Elvis during his lifetime.
It’s a multimillion-Euro lawsuit filed in Germany and only applicable in Germany thanks to an amendment to German copyright law that extends the term of copyright protection. The suit is limited to amounts earned since March 2002 on through 2023.
The suit demands “proper payment” for sound recordings in Germany featuring Elvis – including in new media outlets like ringtones and entertainment apps.
According to Elvis Presley Enterprises: “The central issue, as it relates to this German suit, is the 1973 buyout agreement, which terminated all previous agreements between Presley and RCA. On February 28, 1973, under the agreement, which was first initiated by RCA and arranged by Presley’s manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, rights to Presley’s entire back catalogue of more than 1,000 recordings were purchased by RCA for just $5.4 million. That money, inadequate as it was, had to be split equally between Presley and Parker. The suit alleges that the effect of the buyout agreement was that Presley only received an annual payment of about $10 – $15 per song for the German rights.”
EPE says the amount of money Elvis thus received from the buyout agreement was “conspicuously disproportionate” to the revenue the record label got. And the suit asks for remedy under German copyright law, which it says provides for “equitable remuneration” in cases like this.
The case is being supported by the Calunius Fund, a $60 million private fund that’s conducted an independent review of the merits of the case. EPE says Calunius has committed an unspecified substantial investment to support the case.