Four Tet Launches Legal Action Against Domino Over Royalties

The producer wants a more "reasonable" digital royalty rate to be written into a contract he signed with the label in 2001

Kieran Hebden, AKA Four Tet, has launched legal proceedings against his former label Domino over a dispute about digital royalties.

As Music Week reports, Hebden is claiming up to £70,000 in damages and costs, as recompense for the royalty rate that was applied to streams and downloads of his music released via the label in the ’00s. His contract with Domino was signed in 2001, long before the advent of Spotify and other streaming platforms, which he now believes gives him grounds to negotiate new terms.

Represented by Sam Carter of Hogarth Chambers, Hebden is seeking a judgement from the High Court on his claim for a "reasonable" royalty rate of 50 percent. Domino, however, is remaining resolute in its decision to apply a royalty rate of 18 percent to streams and downloads, based on the existing contract that was signed in 2001, which also applies to sales of physical releases.

Domino’s defence, submitted by Blackstone Chambers’ Tom Richards, reads: "Streaming was not, as at the date of the 2001 agreement, a mainstream method for the lawful distribution of recorded music and was not at that date within the contemplation of the parties."

The label also references Hebden’s request in 2020 to buy back his master recordings from the label, which Domino declined. Domino’s defence says this new legal case is "part of a strategy on [Hebden’s] part to exert pressure on [Domino] to sell him the Masters." The label’s defence documentation concludes by denying that Four Tet "has any claim for damages or that the Defendant has under-accounted or is under-accounting to him."

It’s believed the case could set a precedent for streaming royalty rate disputes, particularly for contracts signed in the pre-digital era, with Hebden seemingly the first artist to take a claim of this kind as far as the High Court.

Hebden released five studio albums as Four Tet with Domino, starting in 2001 with Pause and culminating in 2009 with There Is Love In You. The label also released a live album and a number of 12" singles by the producer during the time that he was signed to the label. Much of his subsequent work has been released via his own Text Recordings label.

The dispute between Hebden and Domino follows on from the publishing of a UK Parliamentary report on streaming last month, which concluded that the current model "needs a complete reset."

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