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Music

Four Tet will pursue a breach of contract case against Domino

Following the removal of three of his albums from streaming services in November, Four Tet has decided to pursue a breach of contract case against his label Domino Recordings.

Producer and DJ, Kieren Hebden, has been signed to Domino since 2001 when he released his sophomore album Pause. After the success of that album, he went on to release Rounds in 2003, Everything Ecstatic in 2005 and There Is Love In You in 2010, all via Domino.

However, in August, Four Tet revealed that he was claiming damages against Domino for a royalty rate that was applied to downloads and streaming revenue for albums released in the 2000s. Hebden and his lawyers have been attempting to get Domino to lower their take of the profits, asserting that “a reasonable royalty rate…has at all material times been at least 50 per cent”.

Domino rejected that claim, however, highlighting a clause in the original 2001 contract that states: “In respect of records sold in new technology formats other than vinyl, Compact Discs and analogue tape cassettes the royalty rate shall be 75 per cent of the otherwise applicable rate.”

The conflict led to Domino removing the three albums in question from streaming services. Hebden later wrote on Twitter that Domino had told him the decision had been made “in order to stop the [legal] case progressing.” Reacting to the news, he wrote: “I’m so upset to see that [Domino] have removed the three albums of mine they own from digital and streaming services. This is heartbreaking to me. People are reaching out asking why they can’t stream the music and I’m sad to have to say that it’s out of my control”.

Following a hearing at the UK’s Intellectual Property Enterprise Court on December 16th, it was ruled that Hebden’s claim for breach of contract will be allowed to proceed, with a full trial taking place in early 2022. Sam Carter, Four Tet’s lawyer stated that: “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”.

He went on to argue that this type of exploitation “runs fundamentally contrary to the intentions of the parties when entering into a recording contract. The [streaming] takedown was, in my submission, a deliberate, cynical and outrageous act, effectively depriving my client’s fans and the world of access to these masters, at least by the now globally accepted mainstream mechanisms.”

To regain control over the copyright of his albums, Four Tet and his legal team will seek a reversion of rights to the masters, giving Hebden complete control over the recordings.