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Sony Violates Contract On Michael Jackson Documentary

 The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) has filed suit against Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (Sony) for repeatedly violating its collective bargaining agreement with AFM.

Among the contract violations cited in the suit is recording work on Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a 2009 film documenting Jackson rehearsing and preparing for live concerts right before his death.

The suit states that Sony called musicians for a recording session claiming it was for a “record” when the actual purpose was to record a film score for This Is It. Records are defined as CDs, records, tapes, music videos, and concert DVDs in AFM’s Sound Recording Labor Agreement. The Sound Recording Labor Agreement, which Sony has signed, covers only recording sessions for records—and prohibits recording film scores.

AFM International President Ray Hair explained that Sony could have simply signed a letter allowing them to use AFM’s Motion Picture Agreement for this recording session, but Sony refused. As a result, musicians have been unable to collect residuals on the film.

A fan may wonder what difference it makes if musicians record music under one contract versus another, but it makes a huge difference to musicians trying to earn a living. Musicians have joined together to create industry standards and it is simply unacceptable for greedy corporations to knowingly violate those standards by denying residuals,” said Hair.

The suit also charges Sony with refusing to make new use payments on a number of other projects including Pitbull’s 2012 version of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and sampling of Jackson songs like “Billie Jean” and “Man in the Mirror” in This Is It.

We did not want to go to court, but Sony repeatedly refused to do the right thing and pay the musicians fairly,” said Hair.

AFM is seeking breach of contract damages, including the payment of wages and benefits that should have been paid to musicians. Read the complaint here.