Domino Records and Four Tet appeared in court for the first time yesterday, December 16, as part of their ongoing legal battle.
Four Tet, AKA Kieran Hebden, began a case against his former label Domino earlier in the year where he asked for £70,000 in royalties damages, those of which he lost due to Domino’s low royalty rates.
Domino then allegedly removed three of his earliest records, ‘Pause’, ‘Rounds’, and ‘Everything Ecstatic’ from streaming services.
“I’m so upset to see that Domino has removed the 3 albums of mine they own from digital and streaming services, he tweeted in November. “This is heartbreaking to me.”
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The producer was only entitled to 18% royalties from the label - although he added that the 2000’s was a “different time” for streaming. Since his first Domino signing in 2001, streaming rates have exponentially grown.
Today, Four Tet and Domino appeared in court for the first hearing presided over by Deputy Judge Pat Treacy. The full case is set to go to court on January 18.
Four Tet’s lawyer, Sam Carter, told the court today that the takedown of all three records ahead of the hearing was “in my submission, a deliberate, cynical and outrageous act”.
“Digital exploitation is now the mainstream method of exploitation of sound recordings, and a refusal to digitally exploit effectively leaves those recordings sat gathering dust on the metaphorical shelf for the remaining life of copyright [70 years],” he said.
“That runs fundamentally contrary to the intentions of the parties when entering into a recording contract,” he added, stating: “The timing of the act just before a trial to determine the proper rate for digital exploitation also makes the defendant’s cynical motivation clear.”
Four Tet was given permission by the court to amend his lawsuit to bring in claims of violating contract due to Domino's removal of his records.
Tomorrow I will go to a hearing at the court and we will get to put my case to the judge as I continue to try and fight for a fair outcome and for the music to be available again for us all.— Four Tet (@FourTet) December 15, 2021
Hebden also made a statement on Twitter yesterday ahead of the hearing where he said he would "continue to try and fight for a fair outcome and for the music to be available again for us all.”
If the outcome is favourable for Four Tet, it could set a precedent that sees a dramatic change in the way royalties are distributed in the future for other artists.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter