Trax Records Affected by Federal Lawsuit for Copyright Infringement on Royalties

Chicago-based Trax Records has been sued for its alleged failure to pay royalties.

Artists Larry Heard and Richard Owens filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit on June 23 against Trax Records. Two days later, TaP Music Publishing announced that they are co-financing the legal action.

Heard, professionally known as “Mr Fingers” and Owens, said in court documents filed in the Northern District of Illinois that his lawsuit highlights the exploitation of the artists and their works, including royalties not paid for various musical compositions and sound recordings that They created in the 1980s.

Heard and Owens are also suing Trax Records President Rachael Cain, known professionally as “Screamin ‘Rachael”.

They accuse Trax of “building their catalog by tapping into unsophisticated but creative house music artists and composers by having them sign their copyrights for their musical works for negligible amounts of money upfront and ongoing royalty promises for the lifetime of the rights author “, According to his complaint.

They are suing Trax for damages that they hope to exceed $ 1 million.

Heard created works such as those known for his songs “Washing Machine”, “Can You Feel It”, “Beyond the Clouds”, “Donnie” and Distant Planet. Owens co-wrote several songs, including “Bring Down the Walls,” “Never No More Lonely,” and “Bye-Bye,” but they claim that Trax Records never properly compensated them for their musical work.

Owens and Heard included copyright documents in their lawsuit that they say shows that their songs were also registered with Trax as the copyright holder. For many of the songs, they said they had received no accounting or payments from Trax.

“Talented but unrepresented musicians hungry for their first break were forced into a business relationship with an unscrupulous record company that made promises they never intended to keep and disguised themselves as paternalistic benefactors to those artists, like a wolf. in lambskin, “according to the complaint.

TaP Music co-director Ben Mawson said they decided to partially fund this lawsuit because they are passionate about electronic music. Mawson says in a statement provided to Billboard that, “We are delighted to be able to support your claim against Trax Records that they have behaved abominably over the years with many artists signed with them. We ask affected artists to contact us and we will strive to support them to the extent if possible. Hopefully those in control at Trax now decide to do the right thing, after many years of contempt for their artists. “

Larry Heard issued the following statement regarding his lawsuit against Trax. “After making several separate releases, it was so disappointing that my first forays into the music business were with a label in the community that turned out to be dishonest, as with many other artists we hear about too often. We are simply seeking justice and equity. Perhaps, “he continues to listen,” our efforts will shed light on the many predatory practices that have long been in place in this industry. “

However, Rick Darke of Duane Morris LLP, attorney for Trax President Cain, responded to the lawsuit saying he had been fighting for 15 years to get artists like Heard and Owen, citing a lengthy legal dispute with a Canadian investor, Casablanca. Trax Inc Casablanca obtained the music rights and licenses from artists like Heard, and then transferred the rights to another entity. Although Cain has since prevailed on appeal, the responsible parties have not paid, Darke said.

“Rachael Cain has long been fighting for these artists to be paid,” Darke continued. “It just hasn’t received the money from the responsible parties to pay them.”

Cain adds: “From the beginning I have been defending house music, Trax Records and our artists. As an artist, I can understand and feel their frustration. Since 2002, Trax Records has had no control over the classic Trax catalog that we seek. To rectify I would like them to know that I have not been in control of the classics and have been fighting to get paid. “

Robert Meloni, litigator for Meloni & McCaffrey intervenes: “During my 40 years of practicing law in the music business, it was not so rare to see record labels fail to honor their agreements with artists, particularly African American artists.” he continues, “Larry Heard and Robert Owens have filed this lawsuit to begin the process of correcting the mistakes they suffered, our hope is that it can inspire other African-Americans in a similar situation to defend their rights as well.”