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Songwriters Settle Suit Over Eagles Royalties

November 23, 2002|Jeff Leeds | Times Staff Writer

Three songwriters who helped compose some of the Eagles' most popular tunes accepted a settlement Friday to resolve allegations that their music publisher shortchanged them out of millions of dollars in royalties.

Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Jack Tempchin had alleged that Warner-Chappell Music, the publishing arm of AOL Time Warner Inc., had underpaid them for co-writing such hits as "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" and "Take It Easy."

Terms of the settlement could not be determined late Friday.

The writers had sought punitive damages from Warner-Chappell, which acquired their original publishing companies in 1972, then allegedly cut a "sweetheart deal" with a Warner-affiliated record label to license songs for an Eagles greatest-hits package, which went on to become certified as the best-selling album in music history.

In addition, the suit said, Warner secretly agreed with the Eagles' manager to pay higher royalties to band members Don Henley and Glenn Frey than to the songwriters with whom they collaborated.

The discrepancy was not discovered until Tempchin commissioned an audit of his royalties during the late 1990s, according to a lawyer for the songwriters.

The Eagles' band members and manager were not named as defendants in the lawsuit.

In all, Warner underpaid the writers by more than $10 million, the suit said.

The songwriters alleged that each time an album including their songs was manufactured and distributed, they were paid 2 cents, the government-mandated rate as of 1975.

But the writers said they were never told that Warner-Chappell had agreed to pay a higher rate -- 2.4 cents per use -- under the licensing deal it reached with Warner's Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch label division.

The songwriters earned royalties on four of the 10 tracks on the hits album. It has sold an estimated 27 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America, ranking it as the top seller in pop history.

An attorney for Warner-Chappell could not be reached for comment.

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