Friday, 12 March 2010 17:10

Court ruling may spell end of Pink Floyd tracks on iTunes


Pink Floyd has won a court ruling that could see the band's tracks being removed from individual sale by music retailers such as Apple's iTunes Store.

Pink Floyd, the band behind the classic albums 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'The Wall', has won a significant court ruling in a contract dispute.

Pink Floyd has been asserting that its contract with EMI prohibits the sale of individual songs without the band's express permission.

The band's position - that the "artistic integrity" clause in the contract (which predates online distribution) prevents EMI from selling individual tracks or singles without consent - has been upheld by the UK High Court.

EMI held that the relevant part of the contract "plainly" applies to physical recordings, not online distribution.

But the court sided with Pink Floyd, and ordered EMI to pay £40,000 costs.

What's the motivation behind the case? Please read on.

The overall case has yet to be decided, and at this stage EMI has not been ordered to stop selling individual tracks through the iTunes Store and other online music retailers such as Amazon.

It appears there are commercial as well as artistic considerations in play.

On one hand, bands like Pink Floyd created albums that were intended to be listened to in their entirety, not as individual songs. (Though that didn't stop "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" from becoming a hit single.)

On the other, musicians earn less royalties when a selection of songs are purchased instead of complete albums.

What were those lines from another famous Pink Floyd track? Oh yes: "Money, it's a crime / Share it fairly / But don't take a slice of my pie."

The value of Pink Floyd's back catalogue to EMI is said to be second only to that of The Beatles.

EMI officials said "This litigation has been running for well over a year and most of its points have already been settled.


"This week's court hearing was around the interpretation of two contractual points, both linked to the digital sale of Pink Floyd's music.

But there are further arguments to be heard on this and the case will go on for some time."

In 2004, the former members of the Islington Green School choir that sang the chorus of "Another Brick in the Wall" claimed unpaid royalties for their work. At the time of recording, the school received a £1000 payment.

A subsequent change in UK copyright law meant the choir members could claim royalty payments as session musicians through the Performing Artists' Media Rights Association.

In 2008, Islington Green School became the City of London Academy, Islington.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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