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Musicians Union Sues Sony Music Over Michael Jackson Documentary

NEW YORK (Hypebot) – The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has filed suit against Sony Music Entertainment for repeatedly violating its collective bargaining agreement with the union. Sony hired musicians under false pretenses, according the lawsuit, and they have been unable to collect residuals on the film.

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) has filed suit against Sony Music Entertainment alleging repeated violation of its collective bargaining agreement. Among the contract violations cited in the suit is recording work on Michael Jackson's "This Is It", a 2009 film documenting Jackson rehearsing for live concerts just before his death.

The suit claims that Sony called musicians for a recording session saying it was for a "record” when the actual purpose was to record a film score for "This Is It." The Sound Recording Labor Agreement, which Sony has signed, covers only recording sessions for records—and prohibits recording film scores.

The union alleges that Sony could have signed a letter allowing them to use the AFM Motion Picture Agreement for this recording session, but refused. As a result, musicians have been unable to collect residuals on the film.

"A fan may wonder what difference it makes if musicians record music under one contract versus another, but it makes a huge difference to musicians trying to earn a living. Musicians have joined together to create industry standards and it is simply unacceptable for greedy corporations to knowingly violate those standards by denying residuals,” said Hair.

The suit also charges Sony with refusing to make new use payments on a number of other projects including Pitbull's 2012 version of Michael Jackson's "Bad” and sampling of Jackson songs like "Billie Jean” and "Man in the Mirror” in This Is It. "We did not want to go to court, but Sony repeatedly refused to do the right thing and pay the musicians fairly,” said Hair.

The AFM is seeking breach of contract damages, including the payment of wages and benefits that should have been paid to musicians.