George Michael Loses Case to End Sony Contract
Jun. 21, 1994
LONDON (AP) _ Pop star George Michael will appeal a court ruling Tuesday that refused to let him nullify his recording contract with Sony, saying the decision upholds ''what is effectively professional slavery.''
High Court Judge Jonathan Parker ruled the singer's $12 million, multi- album contract with Sony Music Entertainment was ''reasonable and fair,'' and was not a restraint of trade as claimed.
Michael, whose debut solo album ''Faith'' sold 14 million copies worldwide, told reporters he was ''extremely disappointed.'' His lawyer, Mark Cran, confirmed that he would appeal.
''I am convinced that the English legal system will not support Mr. Justice Parker's decision or uphold what is effectively professional slavery,'' said Michael.
Sony, meanwhile, said in a statement: ''We have great respect for George Michael and his artistry, and look forward to continuing our relationship with him.''
Cran told The Associated Press that Michael was liable for both sides' legal bills, but that the situation would be reversed should he win on appeal.
He refused to comment on the amount of legal costs. However, the British news agency Press Association said Michael could face a bill of $4.5 million for the case.
Sony spokesman Jonathan Morrish did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press.
Michael vowed before the case began that if he lost he would never record with Sony again. But fans won't necessarily have to do without.
''He will continue to record charity records alone and produce and write for other people which will keep his work before us. But not new material featuring him as a vocalist for Sony,'' pop historian Paul Gambaccini said in a BBC interview.
Robert Sandall, a music critic for The Sunday Times, called it ''a sad day for music.''
But Jonathan King, a producer and one-time pop singer, told ITN News Parker's ruling was a ''victory for the little people ... who work on a daily basis on making people into stars.''
''George Michael signed a contract for millions ... to be spent on turning him into a star,'' he said. ''Otherwise he would have been just a little dumpy, slightly hairy ... waiter at the moment.
''They've made him into a superstar. They've spent millions doing so and now he's decided he doesn't like it,''
Independent producer Peter Waterman agreed: ''You can't have your cake and eat it.''
''We have now proved that contracts that we have are worth the paper they are written on,'' Waterman told BBC radio.
Michael's lawyers had argued that the contract was restrictive and greedy and that it could run another 12 to 15 years, or until the rock singer supplies another six albums.
Contracts like Michael's can last a professional lifetime, giving young artists security, but handing over the copyright and a hefty cut of subsequent profits for recordings.