British metal label Earache Records claims in court that a U.S. distributor owes it $250,000 in licensing fees, and broke a promise to release a catalog of hundreds of albums.
Earache sued New York-based The Century Family, an affiliate of the nonparty record label Century Media Records, of Dortmund, Germany, in Federal Court.
The Century Family and Does 1-10 are the only defendants.
Earache claims Century Family breached a January 2013 agreement to market and distribute its music, and ducked its obligations by falsely claiming Earache had breached a three-year licensing agreement.
Founded by Digby "Dig" Pearson in the mid-'80s, Earache gate-crashed the British heavy metal scene in 1987 with the release of Napalm Death's "Scum." The Nottingham record company became the go-to label for groundbreaking death metal and grindcore records.
Earache claims that Pearson and Century Media's founders Robert Kampf and Oliver Withoft were friends for more than two decades when Earache decided to do business with the German label's American affiliate in 2013.
According to Earache, of the 356 albums it delivered to Century, including 10 new releases, the company has distributed only albums in the United States.
"Without each album being released in the U.S. during the term of the agreement, it is impossible for Earache Records to earn royalties in the U.S. market (in this case, for several years), and fulfill its obligations to its artists," the 17-page lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
To duck two advance payments of $125,000, Century Family's lawyers sent the British label a letter that falsely accused it of breaching the licensing agreement, the complaint states. Earache calls that a "transparent pretext" for delaying payment.
As well as defaulting on the fees, Century Family allegedly used album artwork and set release dates without Earache's approval. The U.S. company failed to account for royalties in a timely manner, Earache adds.
Earache says Century Family is still marketing and selling Earache's records in the U.S. market.
It seeks an injunction and $250,000 in damages.
Earache and its New York-based affiliate are represented by Alan Dowling of Santa Monica.