The Latin pop star and actor Enrique Iglesias on Wednesday sued Universal Music Group in the United States, claiming that his former label short-changed him out of millions of dollars of streaming royalties. In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Iglesias said Universal had paid only a “small fraction” of the 50 percent royalty rate for streamed music that he said his contract required. His lawyer said Universal had wrongly insisted that recording artists be paid for streams in the same way they are paid for album sales, despite the absence of similar costs for production, distribution and other overhead.
The lawsuit seeks to recoup unpaid royalties, following an inspection of Universal’s books. It was filed against a Netherlands-based affiliate, Universal International Music BV. Universal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iglesias, 42, whose father is Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, began his recording career in 1995, and according to the complaint has sold more than 100 million albums and generated billions of streams.
Universal became Enrique Iglesias’ home label in 1999, and he remained there until departing for Sony Music in 2015. Though streaming did not exist in 1999, Iglesias said his contract, which was modified in 2010, called for the 50 percent royalty rate “for any type of use not specifically covered” by its terms. In a statement, Iglesias’ lawyer James Sammataro accused Universal of distorting the contract’s meaning so that “it alone” could reap the savings from digital streams. “This is not what Enrique’s contract, or the contracts of many other artists, call for,” Sammataro said. “Artists, producers and songwriters should benefit from the reduced costs of streaming.”