Hip hop icon Dr Dre has won a major court stoush with his former record company, Death Row, over the royalties from his landmark 1992 album The Chronic. After a court battle stretching back years, a judge has finally ruled that Death Row violated the terms of their contract, which was only to cover physical sales of the LP.
Dre launched the legal action against the record company he founded and co-owned after the September 2009 re-release of the album. Dre had an infamous falling out with co-owner Marion ‘Suge’ Knight in 1996 and left Death Row in 1996. The label was sold to new owners in 2008, who decided to cash in on some of the works they had acquired by remastering and reissuing them. However, Dre and other artists were up in arms over this move, and set about poppin’ some caps in Death Row’s ass by taking them to court rather than settling it in a drive by.
Last week, a US district court judge ruled that under the terms of Dre’s Death Row contract the label was prohibited from selling digital versions of his songs. “For years, Death Row Records forgot about Dre,” Dre’s lawyer said. “We are gratified that the federal court has [agreed] that Death Row has no right to engage in such tactics.”
The next step in the slow US legal process is for damages to be agreed upon. The court win follows a landmark case in the UK last year in which Pink Floyd took its record label to court, successfully arguing that the contracts they had signed with them in the 1990s only covered physical copies of albums. The judge ruled that they had to be sold as whole albums rather than as single tracks, with album sales attracting a higher royalty rate.