Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Royalty Screwed

You know, I make fun of industries and institutions which predate the Internet a lot. They were built for an era when it cost money to infinitely copy and/or instantaneously move information around the world. (The horror!)

But sometimes they show a surprising digital savvy, and you wonder if they really have been paying attention all these years. Or if greed is just the best teacher.

From Grantland, a story about Weird Al Yankovic. He’s tired of making albums with parody songs of last summer’s hits, when he could just record single parodies and upload them in 48 hours. Record companies want records, though, and those take time. And then there’s that whole digital illiteracy thing:

“White & Nerdy,” Yankovic’s first top-10 hit in 2006, [came] 23 years after the release of his first album. That song was released right when YouTube was taking off […] Yankovic suspected he was doing better online than his balance sheet suggested. Sure enough, an audit discovered that Yankovic was owed royalties from YouTube clicks and iTunes downloads.

Two years after approaching Sony with the discrepancies in 2010, Yankovic sued his record company for $5 million. (The two parties settled in December.) If Yankovic was looking for extra motivation to rethink his future association with record labels, this surely didn’t hurt.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure these folks know exactly what they’re doing online. Bravo, Sony. It seems like just yesterday you were screwing with artists in Old Media, and now you’re doing it in New Media. Sniff. They grow up so fast.