Jacko sues Universal Music over Motown royalties -- He says he's owed on Jackson 5 reissues over the past quarter century

By Gary Susman
Updated May 12, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Michael Jackson: Martin Grimes/splashnews.com/NewsCom

Another month, another Michael Jackson lawsuit. The Gloved One filed suit Thursday against Universal Music Group, parent company of Motown, where he recorded as a member of the Jackson 5 in the early 1970s. He says the label has been releasing unauthorized new albums and merchandise without paying him royalties, and he’s asking for an accounting of royalties he says are due him, plus the title to his master recordings, as penalties for Motown’s alleged breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, Reuters reports.

The dispute dates back to 1976, when Jackson and most of his brothers left Motown for Epic (now part of Sony). According to the current lawsuit, in a 1980 agreement Jackson agreed to forfeit royalties from his pre-1976 releases and Motown agreed to pay royalties on any new best-of compilations and discs of previously unreleased material. Motown has released such albums without paying Jackson ”a single dollar” in royalties, the suit says. Universal has not commented.

Jackson’s no stranger to the courtroom — he’s been on the receiving end of several recent suits, including one filed by an auction house for nonpayment and one filed by a concert promoter for backing out of two shows. And it’s not the first time the King of Pop has expressed his displeasure with a record company, either. In a series of press conferences and demonstrations in summer 2002, Jacko accused his current label, Sony, of underpromoting his low-selling ’01 release, ”Invincible.” Now that Jackson is feuding with two of the five major labels, finding one to sign him once his Sony contract expires might not be as easy as 1, 2, 3.