Not everybody is happily singing along with the winner of Sony and FIFA's SuperSong competition. Earlier this week a lawsuit was filed against Sony Music Entertainment, its affiliates and Puerto Rican songwriter Elijah King, whose winning “Vida” was recorded by Ricky Martin and recently released for the 2014 World Cup.
In the lawsuit filed April 21 in Miami, Hundred Proof Club, Think Famous Productions, Akela Family and JDK Entertainment contend that King and Sony committed fraud against their companies and the 1,600 other aspiring songwriters who participated in the global competition.
The plaintiffs claim that they entered into a recording and publishing contract to promote King's work and career in early 2013. The alleged agreement granted the companies the right to earn royalties and license fees based on King’s work.
Sony became familiar with King thanks to the plaintiffs’ past relationship with the company, they contend, and allegedly became interested in signing the songwriter for itself. In September 2013, before the start of the SuperSong competition, the lawsuit claims, Sony asked King to write a song to be recorded by Martin.
The plaintiffs contend that at the request of Sony’s agents, King was to enter the song “Vida” in the “Sony Music World Cup FIFA Songwriting Contest,” set to begin in December. After the submission, Sony allegedly pressured the plaintiffs to release King from his contract so that he would be eligible to win the contest. The suit claims that Hundred Proof Club, Think Famous Productions, Akela Family and JDK Entertainment were promised compensation if they would release King.
According to the rules of the SuperSong competition, contestants could not be under a publishing agreement with any third party and the winner was to be signed by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
The lawsuit contends that Sony “fraudulently” induced King’s release from his publishing contract and then refused to provide the plaintiffs with the promised compensation.
Moreover, the plaintiffs accuse Sony of committing fraud in the SuperSong competition, arguing that the “winning” song was in Sony’s possession long before the contest began and that King was never eligible to win because the rules indicated that entrants could not have had publishing agreements at any time in their careers.
HuffPost Voces spoke to attorney Alicia Roman, who is representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuit asks for damages in excess of $15,000 in addition to equitable relief, and Roman said they’re hoping to reverse King’s contractual release.
“[We’re looking to] annul the release due to the fraud they committed,” Roman said. “When it’s annulled, all of the rights to Elijah’s songs are returned to my client, particularly the song 'Vida' that Ricky Martin sang and will be a part of the [FIFA] album. All of the money that the song generates belongs to my client. Basically that’s what we’re looking for. If we aren’t able to annul [it] for some reason, they have to offer my client the financial compensation they promised.”
Roman said that the plaintiffs were unaware of the competition’s full terms and conditions when they signed the release of King's contract, but have since realized that King was never eligible to enter or win.
“At the time it wasn’t very clear, but looking at all the facts now, they stole our talent without giving us what they promised they would give,” Roman said. “[They] stole the talent with the excuse of the competition despite the fact that he was never eligible for the competition. If we go off of the rules that they themselves placed, he never had a right to win and the competition is a fraud against us, the entire world and the 1,600 contestants that participated.”
King also wrote the hit “Te Gusta” for the Venezuelan band Grupo Treo while under contract with the plaintiffs, according to the lawsuit. HuffPost Voces attempted to reach the songwriter on his cell phone, leaving two voice mail messages, but has yet to receive a response.
Sony's senior manager for press and publicity told HuffPost that the company had no comment on the lawsuit.
Efforts to reach Ricky Martin were made via email, also without success. Martin was the spokesman for the SuperSong competition, which announced King and “Vida” as the winners in February of this year.
On Tuesday, Martin released the official video for the song, which will be part of the FIFA World Cup album.