The recent removal of Four Tet's Domino-released albums from streaming services has been described the artist's legal team as "deliberate, cynical and outrageous".
Four Tet is currently locked in a legal battle with Domino over digital royalties, with the record label recently deciding to take down his albums from streaming platforms as the dispute played out. The albums that were removed were 'Pause', 'Rounds' and 'Everything Ecstatic'.
In the latest pre-trial hearing, which took place remotely, the artist's legal team sought to amend the case to include a claim of breach of contract (breaking the terms set out in a contract by removing the albums from streaming) or restraint of trade. Deputy judge Pat Treacy approved the former claim, but dismissed the latter.
Putting forward the artist's case, Sam Carter of Hogarth Chambers, said: "The 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."
On social media, Four Tet has claimed that Domino removed the albums from streaming platforms in an attempt "to try and stop the legal dispute", and Carter made the case that the removal was "an act of fundamental breach to try to avoid the court ruling on its previous acts of breach".
All of this music that I made is not available to stream or download anymore because @dominorecordco have removed it against my wishes. They have taken it down to try and stop the legal dispute we are involved in over the royalties they pay me. pic.twitter.com/5hf4UDk11Q— Four Tet (@FourTet) December 15, 2021
Following the removal of the three records, Four Tet, real name Kieran Hebden, and his legal team are now pressing forward with proceedings to reclaim the rights to the original masters for the album. With Domino having removed them from streaming platforms, fans now won't be able to listen to the three records until copyright expires on them 70 years after the original release.
Domino's lawyer, Tom Richards of Blackstone Chambers, responded in court that the label had offered Hebden an out-of-court settlement in order to avoid the case going to trial and incurring costs for everyone involved. Richards said that in the settlement, Domino had offered to pay Hebden his legal costs as well as the full amount he was entitled to. Hebden rejected the offer, he said.
Responding to Carter's accusation that the takedown was "deliberate" and "cynical", Richards said: "What [Domino] has done was an attempt to bring this dispute to an end by avoiding the need for a trial. Now, that attempt may prove to have been a successful attempt, it may prove to be a misguided attempt, but there is no basis to allege that it was an attempt made otherwise than in good faith."
The case will continue into the new year, and due to its complexity, it may be elevated to the High Court. This is an outcome that Hebden and his legal team hope to avoid due to the costs involved.
You can find a more detailed breakdown of the hearing via Music Week.
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