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EPE Pursuing Legal Action Against RCA Germany

August 30, 2011 | Other

Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and the Calunius Litigation Risk Fund announced today developments in a multi-million Euro lawsuit against Arista Music, formerly RCA Records, in Germany. The suit, which was filed in the name of its sister company Elvis Presley Enterprises, LLC in December 2010, is demanding proper payment for sound recordings in Germany featuring Elvis Presley including new media, like downloads, ringtones and entertainment apps that Presley himself could not have dreamed would someday exist. The suit is only applicable to sound recordings in Germany and is limited to amounts earned since March 2002 and future revenue until 2023 following an amendment to German copyright law that extended the term of copyright protection.

The suit alleges that Presley was unjustly exploited during his lifetime by the record company and that his estate has continued to suffer from those injustices.

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 claims the amount of money he received from the buyout agreement with RCA was “conspicuously disproportionate” to the revenue received by RCA from its exploitation of Elvis Presley master recordings, during the extended portion of the copyright term in Germany. The claim asks for the remedy under German copyright law of "equitable remuneration" which is available in circumstances like this.

The case is supported by the Calunius Fund, litigation funders, who have conducted an independent review of the merits of the case and of the amount of potential payments. Having reached a positive view of all aspects of the case, Calunius has committed a substantial investment to support the claim.

“We have conducted a rigorous examination of the merits and quantum of this case, working closely with the plaintiffs,” said Christian Stuerwald, the Calunius partner with responsibility for this investment. “Together we have come to the conclusion that this case will win in the German Courts. We are particularly proud to be supporting such a clear and meritorious case in the historic interests of the greatest recording artist in history.”

Tony C wrote on August 30, 2011
I find it amusing when the 1973 RCA buy-out is brought up, EPE complain that the figure was too low. Did RCA put a gun to Elvis' head and make him sign the deal? The deal was Elvis' doing, even Parker thought it was a bad idea, as he needed cash quickly. RCA originally offered a lower figure, which Parker negotiated upwards and the deal was done. EPE also complain that the money had to be split between Elvis and Parker. Is it also the fault of RCA that Elvis never got to grips with his manager? I think not. EPE state that RCA made vast sums from Elvis' recording catalogue which are disproportianate to the figure they received from the buy-out. Well, I'm afraid that is the chance one takes when they sell something.
benny scott wrote on August 30, 2011
Amen to that ! That's the way I see it too Tony. The suit was filed in December 2010, that's....37 years (!!!) after the 1973 buyout. "Cirque Du Soleil" , with the emphasis on "Cirque" (Circus). Reminds me of the Sinatra song "Send In The Clowns". Always El.
Martin DJ wrote on August 30, 2011
"his estate has continued to suffer from those injustices." To paraphrase Liberace: 'they suffered all the way to the bank". Money is being made from an artist who is no longer around. The estate nor the heirs have had anything to do with the music Elvis recorded, yet they profit from it to this day. Since the heirs already have anough millions to last them a lifetime, it's hard to feel sorry for them because of the injustices mentioned above.
dgirl wrote on August 30, 2011
Jack - it is pathetic that on every topic you have to bring Michael jackson into the subject. What in the world does he have to do with anything on this subject? I
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on August 30, 2011
Why not bring mj into everything,it keeps up the image of Elvis fans worshipping him. I really wonder about some people, do you sit and listen to Elvis 24-7 wow another i got woman/amen meledy. Dont get me wrong i like Elvis, but please stop with the beatles mj vs Elvis nonsence. As for epe they should sue thereself for the alful products they put out. How someone owns someone likeness is beyond me, is Elvis getting payed?
Tony C wrote on August 30, 2011
The constant comparing of Elvis and Michael Jackson is meaningless and very tedious. In what way was the deal unfair to Elvis and his heirs, other than they would have made more money had he not signed on the dotted line? He agreed to it and was actually the person pushing for it. I'm sure RCA did make untold fortunes upon Elvis' sad demise in 1977, but could this have been predicted four years earlier? The past is history, it cannot be re-written.
Brian Quinn wrote on August 30, 2011
The case is claiming unpaid royalties on Elvis songs sold in Germany between March 2002 and 2023. It was filed following amendments to German copyright law that extended the term of protection from 25 to 50 years. It would appear that, according to experts, EPE have a good chance of winning the lawsuit. We will just have to wait and see.
theoldscudder wrote on August 30, 2011
What's the relevance Elvis, M J? I don't get it. The comparison is childish. Sounds like the rantings of a very immature person.
mark wilson wrote on August 31, 2011
With you on that one Tony C. I honestly believe EPE will lose this case and so they should. The deal was done and they accepted it. I dont think any judge will feel the need for this ridiculous case to go on. It just seems to me the Lisa and co just do not ever want to do a single days work. Remember EPE are a bunch of chancers, they will lose this one.
Bestoftherest8301 wrote on August 31, 2011
I think I may go back to my employers and say Hey, I think the salary you paid me in 1973 was disproportionate to the amount of work I put in and that you got more value out of me than I appreciated at the time, therefore can you pay me another $100k. Any chance of me winning? I guess not, so why should EPE. It just beggars belief. do they sit there daily thinking of all these scams.
rai wrote on August 31, 2011
Whoever comparing Elvis with another irrelevant party, pls stop it. It doesn't make sense at all. As for the lawsuit, I strongly believe that Elvis did not have a good & honest circle of friends and advisors at that time hence his foolish decision to accept the deal. What EPE is fighting for is acceptable. All Elvis related items be it a record deal or materials should belong to them as Graceland is where Elvis lived and died. EPE should be controlling this and EPE should be a one-stop Elvis centre and all Elvis related stuffs that need to be released should be approved by them. Currently, everything is scatterred throughout the world. And who is Germany & Europe to have control over Elvis' catalogue??
Tony C wrote on August 31, 2011
EPE could own Elvis' recording catalogue, as could any of us. I'm sure Sony would be willing to sell it if the price were right. People seem to get confused with what EPE own, they were never RCA, BMG, Sony or even a record company at all. Anybody that thinks that EPE could do a better job with Elvis' recording catalogue than Ernst and Sony should take a look at the merchandise EPE produce, not always the most tasteful. People also get confused when they demand EPE release an "Elvis On Tour" box set. They can't, as they don't own the rights to the material or the actual footage itself. Brian is correct in that the basis of this lawsuit is over the change in copyright law, when a standard fifty years was placed on all European countries. That is fine, they probably are entitled to certain sums. What really annoys me is the way they constantly complain about the 1973 agreement, giving the impression that they feel cheated.
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on August 31, 2011
Forget the on tour dvd set its not going to happen,but a cd set is long overdue.
Harvey Alexander wrote on August 31, 2011
Next EPE will be claiming that Elvis wasn't paid enough for 'Aloha From Hawaii'. It breaks my heart to think that they are "suffering" today because of such bad business deals done in the past. Just think of how many Elvis ducks they'll have to sell to make up the money they've lost from his recordings. Boo hoo hoo.
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on September 01, 2011
Do you really think Elvis cares what his fans think? No im not a real fan ,i dont buy every cd release or think i have to have every pic of him. Sorry life is too short, and in the end none of this trival crap means anything!
Tony C wrote on September 01, 2011
Jack, do not make such sweeping accusations about people here, you have no right to do so. You say that anybody that replies in a negative way to your comments is not a true Elvis fan. What gives you the right to decide who are true fans? As for myself, I stuck by Elvis through the tough times when he was alive. From 1975 to 1977, the only media coverage of Elvis was the "Fat, Forty, Lonely, etc" headlines and Elvis was a figure of ridicule. I fended off that ridicule and defended him to the hilt, even when the first extracts of "Elvis What Happened?" were being published in the newspapers. As for The Beatles, I have always bought their records, but as well as Elvis' records, not instead of. You seem to have a lot of opinions about a time that was before you were born. Everything you say always brings a flurry of negative remarks here, but I suppose we are all wrong and you are right!
Tony C wrote on September 01, 2011
The judge did make that conclusion, but only based on hindsight as he was not there at the time. It is very easy to say years down the line that one party was exploited. I have been in business for many years and to me, a deal is a deal. Once I agree to something with a handshake, there is no going back. I do not think it is very honourable for EPE to gripe about this deal so many years later. About five years ago, I needed cash very quickly to stop my business going under and to save it and my employees jobs, I sold the bulk of my Elvis collection. It had been built up over more than thirty years and it was sold for a fraction of it's true worth had I been able to wait. Should I now go back to the buyers and say that I did not receive enough money? The half paid to Tom Parker was nothing out of the ordinary, their agrangement was a 50/50 split on deals done without any direct work involvement by Elvis. This category would include merchandise but exclude things such as records, concerts and movies where Elvis was the creative force. The talk of world tours is interesting, we always hear that Elvis wanted to do it but was not allowed to. Priscilla once stated that Elvis was a homebird and although he said that he wanted to tour overseas, his heart wasn't really in it. There was also a mention of it in a BBC documentary about the Memphis Mafia. Several of them were discussing Elvis but as I don't have the tape to hand, I can't remember exactly who said what. The subject of the world tours came up and they were in general agreement about Elvis wanting to do it, but one remembered a comment Parker had said to him. This was about customs control around they world, Parker questioned how Elvis expected to travel around with large amounts of medication and guns and not be questioned about it. Another issue was the death of a girl and many injuries to others at a David Cassidy concert in London, where poor crowd control was blamed. Parker made clear his fears of this happening at an Elvis concert should he travel overseas. All of these things were factors in the decision not to travel, it is very easy to blame Parker for stopping Elvis, but it is not that simple.
Steve V wrote on September 02, 2011
No one and I mean no one should ever apologize for stating an opinion here. That's what an open forum means. If you insult somebody, well that's a different story. But I do take exception to the statement that some abandoned Elvis for The Beatles. There is nothing to back that statement up. I was a teenager in the 60's, were you even born yet? Doubt it. I bought every Elvis release and I bought The Beatles releases, also The Beach Boys, Stones, Soul, R&B, Sinatra and everything else that was top 40. Was I upset at some of the Elvis product? Yes. I mean how can you compare Do The Clam with Help or Satisfaction? How can you compare Long Legged Girl with Good Vibrations? Only a fan with blinders on can say the Elvis songs were better and I wont apologize for saying that, but I am still a fan. MJ? Never bought one of his records!
dgirl wrote on September 02, 2011
Steve V - always the voice of reason and telling it like it is instead of how some fans think it was. Being a teen also in the 60's, I concur with everything he said. And for those who make assumtions for that time period when they were not even around, you had to be there, be in high school when Do The Clam was your guy's latest release. Of course The Beatles, Dylan and others recorded some junk, who hasnt? Just not as much. LP after LP contained a lot of disappointment for me who wanted the real ELvis back. That came in late 1967 thankfully with Big Boss Man. Not a hit, but he was Elvis again.
marty wrote on September 05, 2011
To turn the discussion away from other musicians (good or bad) and back to the issue, my view is that no one should really profit from Elvis but Elvis himself but he is now gone... As for the lawsuit, unless Elvis was misinformed or threatened etc. by RCA, a deal is a deal! A scenario might be that the fee was determined taking into account (among other things) the copyright law in Germany at the time and RCA knew it would be extended but failed to inform Elvis et al. Since this is unlikely to have happened then in my book EPE should lose the case. But since they try their luck maybe they have a chance. Strange old world...
MickeyN wrote on September 08, 2011
The rights and wrongs of this case are beyond me. However, I do get an uncomfortable feeling every time one of these stories comes out that there are people and companies that are making megabucks out of Elvis when they have done next to nothing to earn it (and sadly I include Priscilla in that). I realise that EPE needs to make some money to maintain Graceland, BUT, why should others who sell Elvis stuff, meeting the fans needs and wants, be prevented by a battery of lawyers. If every unlicensed trader sold all their stuff, there would still be enough made by EPE. It can't be a matter of quality control - look at the rubber ducks and Mr Potato Heads! A few years ago, Elvis singles were re-released one per week in the UK. They all did quite well in the charts; they would all have done better if the available video footage had been released to accompany the singles; but of course the videos were owned by one mob and the music by another so they did not work together. RESULT - we had an Elvis impersonator miming to "One Night" on "Top of the Pops" and a missed opportunity to promote the King to a whole new audience. The one and only person in this whole sorry mess who added real value was Elvis. He seems to be the one person who stands above the greed and venality. He sang his songs, he entertained (yes, even with the films and songs that my fellow commentators love to moan about), he lived his life and did harm only to himself. That is why he is one of the most famous people of the 20th Century - known from India to Indiana by his first name. Do you think that legacy can ever be threatened by the Beatles, MJ, Sinatra etc? No.
Brian Quinn wrote on November 24, 2011
November 24th 2011 EPE LOSE LEGAL BATTLE - The legal heirs of Elvis Presley lost a lawsuit Wednesday in Germany claiming a fortune from Sony Music Entertainment Germany for what they called the "exploitation of Elvis Presley's greatest hits". The Judge hearing the case in the Munich court mockingly quoted one of Elvis' 50s songs, saying, 'Money, honey, if you want to get along with me,' as he threw out the claim by Elvis Presley Enterprises for a share of the record company's profits over the past 40 years. The unprecedented deal, thought up by Colonel Parker saw Elvis sign away to RCA Records in 1973 the rights to all his classic hits and more, including Heartbreak Hotel and Jailhouse Rock, for a lump sum of $5.4 million dollars. The deal saw both Parker and RCA Records profit greatly while Elvis was walk away with less than £2 million dollars for all but his entire career. Sony later acquired the rights. The Elvis estate argued the package was now worth $130 million dollars thanks to German copyright extensions. They partly based their claim on a 2002 provision in German rights law that ordains a top-up of royalties for unexpected best-sellers. But the judge disagreed. Christian Czychowski, the lawyer for Elvis Presley Enterprises, in which the icon's daughter Lisa-Marie Presley holds a 15-per-cent stake, said his client would appeal.