April 24, 2014

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Court upholds $5M judgment against Sony Music over logo dispute

CLEVELAND Sony Music must pay the founder of a small record company $5 million for failing to put the company`s logo on reissues of Meat Loaf`s “Bat Out of Hell” album, a federal appeals court ruled.

Steve Popovich, who started Cleveland International Records in 1977 and soon afterward signed a chubby singer named Marvin Lee Aday who went by the stage name of Meat Loaf, persuaded Epic Records to release the wildly successful album. Epic was owned at the time by CBS.

Sony, which bought out CBS Records, paid $6.7 million to Popovich and his former partners in 1998 to settle a lawsuit over royalties from the album.

The settlement required Sony to place the Cleveland International logo on future Meat Loaf albums but Sony did not add the logo to “Bat Out of Hell” for more than a year.

In a 2-1 decision Wednesday, a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a federal jury`s decision in 2005 awarding Popovich an extra $5 million in damages.

“I worked too hard for them and made them too much money to get robbed now, in the autumn of my life,” Popovich, 65, said.

Cleveland International`s roster also includes singer/songwriter David Allan Coe and an array of polka artists including Grammy winners Brave Combo and the late Frankie Yankovic.

The appeals ruling also requires U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., who presided over the logo case, to revisit a ruling that limited the geographic scope of the dispute to eight major record-buying nations.

A call Thursday to Sony Music headquarters in New York was answered with a message that the offices were closed until Monday.

Sony has claimed that the logo omission was a mistake that later was corrected. In court documents, Sony also accused Popovich of trying to milk money out of the company by trumping up the logo agreement.

“Bat Out of Hell,” operatic in tone, but guitar rock through and through, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, according to court records.