By JOE MANDAK
A western Pennsylvania rocker whose biggest hit was “The Rapper” is suing Sony for allegedly not paying royalties for sampling a lesser-known song that wound up on a rap record, “Letter to the King.”
Sony/ATV Music Publishing in New York didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Friday on the copyright infringement suit filed in U.S. District Court, Pittsburgh by Dominic Ierace and two others.
Better known by his stage name of Donnie Iris, Ierace co-wrote the song “Memoirs of the Traveler” when he was a member of The Jaggerz. The other co-writers, who are also suing Sony, are Eugene “Benny” Faiella, an original member of The Jaggerz, and the estate of Joseph V. Rock. Rock managed the group when the song appeared on the album “We Went to Different Schools Together” in 1970.
Iris, from the Pittsburgh area, wrote “The Rapper,” which was his biggest hit — rising to No. 2 on the Billboard charts for two weeks that year — and was included on the same album as “Memoirs of the Traveler.” Iris has had other hits since the band broke up in the mid-1970s, notably “Leah” and “Love Is Like A Rock” in the 1980s.
The lawsuit contends musical samples from the lesser-known song have been used on the “Letter to the King” track recorded by the rapper known as The Game. The song appeared on a 2008 album “LAX” and was released as a single.
According to the lawsuit, The Game’s label, Geffen/Universal paid royalties to EMI Music Publishing Co., but EMI never passed on the royalties to the three men who wrote “Memoirs.” They’re suing Sony/ATV because Sony bought out EMI in June 2012.
“In January 2013, Sony requested additional time to research the writer royalty issue” and “several more communications were exchanged with Sony throughout 2013” without a result, so the lawsuit was filed late Wednesday with the court, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit doesn’t specify how much is allegedly owed to the songwriters.