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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Music stars lead contracts challenge
Courtney Love
Love: Will take it "all the way to the Supreme Court"
US musicians led by Courtney Love and Don Henley are to fight back at what they say is unfairness in the record industry on Wednesday.

More than 100 artists, denouncing what they claim are corrupt business practices, are to lobby a California state hearing about recording contracts.

The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks are in dispute with their record company
Love is due to give evidence at the Sacramento hearing of the Select Committee on the entertainment industry.

The singer is also among a crop of artists involved in separate legal fights with record companies over their contracts.

"I'm ready to take this thing all the way to the Supreme Court," she said when filing her case.

"Artists who have generated billions of dollars for the music industry die broke and uncared for by the business they made wealthy."

This hearing comes at a time when several lawsuits, by acts like the Dixie Chicks and Hole singer Love against big labels, are going through US courts.

Controversial

The big issue is California's so-called "seven-year statute", which ties musicians to longer contracts than anybody else in the entertainment business.

A controversial 1987 amendment to the California labour code gave music labels the right to sue artists for undelivered albums at the end of seven years.

The musicians, including former Eagles vocalist Henley, singers Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Tom Petty, have formed a group called the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC) to oppose the rule.

Sheryl Crow
Crow's attorney plans to testify at the hearing
They claim that young artists are often forced to accept such terms in the bid to get a recording contract, leaving them later with little control over their careers.

Attorney Jay Cooper, who represents Crow and other performers said: "It's a one-way arrangement.

"Artists should be treated as all the people in the state of California."

Unknown artists

The interests of the big record labels - Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and Bertelsmann - will be represented at the hearing by officials from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

They argue that the binds are necessary to ensure the record companies get a return on their investment in unknown artists who may not succeed.

"They pay vast amounts on advances, promotional and marketing costs for these artists and rely on the handful of artists who succeed to recover their losses and make a profit," said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president and general counsel of RIAA.

Oscar de la Hoya
Oscar de la Hoya is a boxer turned recording artist
The RIAA argues that it is arrangements like the seven-year statute that helps spread the risk of new talent, maintaining the "vibrant" US record industry.

But the artists disagree and their complaints have drawn enough concern from California legislators to lead to this hearing.

State Senator Kevin Murray, who is to chair the hearing, said that they wanted to clear up "some ambiguity" in the law and clarify it for both artists and their employers.

"Virtually every industry in California, with the exception of the record industry, is held to personal-service contracts that cannot legally run longer than seven years," Murray said.

On Thursday Love will counter sue the world's largest record label, Universal Music Group, for $30m (21m), who are suing her for failure to complete five owed albums.

Last week, the country-pop act, the Dixie Chicks, announced that they were suing Sony in order to escape their contract with the music giant.

Henley, Luther Vandross and Oscar de la Hoya are all involved in similar disputes with their record labels.

See also:

06 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Bands launch 'missing' money writ
12 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Britney label joins MP3 fray
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem's mother could 'drop lawsuit'
28 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Courtney sues management
10 Jun 01 | Film
Courtney hit by hotel thieves
24 Jan 00 | Business
Record companies sue MP3.com
29 Aug 01 | Music
Dixie Chicks sue Sony for $4m
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