- At a pre-trial hearing yesterday, the UK artist was granted permission to pursue a breach of contract claim against the label.
There have been developments in the ongoing legal battle between Kieran Hebden, AKA Four Tet, and UK record label Domino, Music Week reports.
The two parties, who are locked in a complex dispute over digital royalties, convened remotely yesterday, December 16th. The latest pre-trial hearing centred around Domino's recent takedown of three Four Tet albums—Pause, Rounds and Everything Ecstatic—from streaming services.
Hebden's legal team sought to amend the case to include claims of breach of contract (breaking the terms set out in a contract) or restraint of trade (interfering with free competition in a market). They were granted the former by deputy judge Pat Treacy, but not the latter.
"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," said Hebden's lawyer, Sam Carter of Hogarth Chambers.
In a tweet posted on December 15th, the day before the trial, Hebden said the takedown was Domino's attempt "to try and stop the legal dispute" by removing the music altogether. In court, Carter said the move was "an act of fundamental breach to try to avoid the court ruling on its previous acts of breach."
Hebden's legal team is also now trying to reclaim the rights to the original masters for the three albums. Carter said the LPs had been "digitally sterilised" by the takedown and, under the current agreement, fans wouldn't be able to listen to them online for decades. (The copyright on Rounds runs until 2071.)
During his submission, Domino's lawyer, Tom Richards of Blackstone Chambers, said the label had offered Hebden an out-of-court settlement so as to avoid going to trial. The label, Richards said, offered to pay Hebden the full amount he was entitled to, plus all the legal costs. Hebden rejected.
"What the defendant [Domino] has done was an attempt to bring this dispute to an end by avoiding the need for a trial," said Richards. "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 hearing, which lasted around five hours, was presided over by deputy judge Pat Treacy at the UK's Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC). Because of its complexity, there's a chance it may be elevated to the High Court. Hebden's legal team wants to avoid this outcome.
"If the claim is transferred to the High Court, my client will not be able to afford this litigation," said Carter. "My client is a litigant in person with limited resources."
Launched in August, the case is about Hebden seeking to increase his digital royalties from 18 to 50 percent. Domino says his contract, which was signed in 2001 before streaming emerged, has been fairly honoured. The original trial date of January 18th has now been pushed back.
Since the takedown, several artists have voiced support for Hebden and his case, including Caribou, Mafalda, Trevor Jackson, Sasha, Heidi Lawden and Noncompliant.
Read about yesterday's hearing in more detail via Music Week. Hebden posted this photo via Instagram earlier today.