Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston Update: Sony Sued For Using Their Songs

Leigh Egan

Songs by the late Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, along with other artists' songs, are being used illegally, according to the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM). The organization recently filed a lawsuit against Sony Music for using music in movies, television shows, and specials that breached contract.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that AFM is suing Sony over the use of numerous Michael Jackson songs that were used in violation of a labor agreement. The songs include the 2009 recorded music by the King of Pop, along with Paul Anka, on 2009's This is It soundtrack.

Additionally, AFM alleges that Sony allowed Jackson's song, "Bad," to be used by Hip-Hop artist Pitbull without authorization. Sony entered into an agreement to license Jackson's music, yet proceeded to allow several other songs to be sampled without proper authorization and without fulfilling their payment obligations.

AFM also accuses Sony of releasing Houston's Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances on CD and DVD without notice. The agreement with Sony entails residuals from the sales for the other musicians who worked with Houston.

Other artists were also mentioned in the lawsuit after Sony allegedly used their music without paying residuals, including Tony Bennett and Earth, Wind, & Fire.

According the lawsuit, Sony is accused of violating the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA), a bargaining agreement between AFM and Sony in which benefits and wages for musicians and accompanying musicians are covered.

AFM claims that Sony brought in accompanying musicians for sound recordings, which was eventually used for motion pictures, yet the musicians were not paid their residuals. The lawsuit also alleges that Sony breached its contract by failing to pay residuals and "new payments" for numerous songs used in television shows.

The lawsuit was filed at the United States Court, Southern District of New York. So far, Sony hasn't commented on the issue.

This is one of the many lawsuits Sony faces in this year alone. Earlier this year, singers Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood sued Sony for paying them below-value royalties for their streaming music on Spotify. The plaintiffs' lawsuits states that other companies, such as Warner and Universal, are engaging in the same type of behavior as Sony.

"Those other labels have in most likelihood engaged in the same self-dealing as Sony with respect to the diversion of payments to them, and the below market streaming royalty rates."