Toto, Inc. v. Sony Music Entertainment, No. 1:12-cv-01434-RJS (S.D.N.Y. filed Oct. 8, 2014) [Doc. 117].
In this breach of contract action concerning royalties for digital downloads (and master and ringtones) payable by the record label to the 80's band "Toto", the Court granted the record label summary judgment finding that the proper royalty rate had been paid. The Court applied New York law to interpret the relevant recording agreements, and found that one provision (the "Audiophile Provision" in 1986 and 2002 amendments) supplied the applicable royalty rate for the sale of downloads through digital retailers, regardless of whether the downloads were sold by the record company or unaffiliated third-party licensees. The dispute turned on the meaning of the terms "Licensee" and "lease", which had different royalty rates. Toto argued the term "lease" referred to a license to any party, regardless of whether that party is affiliated with the record company; the record company argued that the term "lease" referred to a special license whereby a third party incorporates the recordings into its own product, such as a compilation record. The Court found that the inclusion of the record company's affiliates in the contractual definition of "licensee" did not limit the scope of that term; the definition included the term "without limitation". Accordingly, digital retailers were licensees, and industry custom defined the term "lease" as a limited license to a third party to incorporate recording into their own unique product. However, the Court found that the record company did not have a declaratory judgment claim because the dispute was "far more hypothetical than real." The declaratory judgment dispute arose from Toto's threat to sue the label for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing if the label ceased distributing Toto's records through certain retailers.