Elvis Estate Sues over 1973 Copyright Deal

Sep 6, 2011 - LegalZoom News Sources
The estate of Elvis Presley has sued Arista Records for money from ringtones.

Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business arm of the rock 'n roll icon's estate, recently sued Arista Music in Germany for unpaid past royalties and future royalties related to ringtones, downloads and apps that use The King's music.

The suit refers to a decades-old deal between RCA Records, Arista's parent company, and Presley's manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker. Under the terms of that 1973 arrangement, RCA bought the copyrights to Elvis's catalogue for $5.4 million.

Now Presley's estate says the deal was exploitative, and the $10 annual payment for the worldwide rights to his songs is out of proportion to the huge windfall Arista makes from his masters.

Leslie Parrin, chairman of the U.K.-based finance company backing the litigation, told Reuters the estate seeks $9 million in unpaid back royalties and a share of all future royalties until the copyrights expire in 2023.

German courts are authorized to revise copyright agreements to make them more equitable for artists, according to the BBC.

The lawsuit was filed about a week after the death of Jerry Lieber, who composed two of Elvis's biggest hits, "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock."