Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rock and Royalties: Bob Daisley’s New Suit Against Ozzy Osbourne

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As previously discussed on this website, Australian bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley has worked with some of the most legendary names in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, The Hoochie Coochie Men and Chicken Shack are just some of the many artists who’ve benefited from Daisley’s playing and/or writing talents over the years. An undeniable highlight of Daisley’s long and storied career was his work with Osbourne, drummer Lee Kerslake and the late Randy Rhoads on the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman albums. Now, more than three decades after those records revolutionized the world of Heavy Metal, Daisley is looking to receive the compensation he truly deserves.

On August 9, Daisley issued a press release through his attorney to announce that he had filed a lawsuit against his former bandmate:

Minden, Nevada – August 9, 2016: Robert “Bob” Daisley, one of the writers of the hit song “Crazy Train” and a former band mate of Ozzy Osbourne, filed suit yesterday against Osbourne and Blizzard Music Limited, seeking more than $2 million in unpaid royalties. The complaint was filed in the Ninth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada in Douglas County. Daisley is represented by Crowell & Moring LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP.

Daisley was one of the co-authors for songs on the famous hard rock albums Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a MadmanBlizzard of Ozz reached multi-platinum status in the 1990s and featured well-known tracks, including “Crazy Train,” which is regularly heard today in sports arenas and featured in many television shows, commercials, and video games. For the past 35 years, the copyrights to the songs co-authored by Daisley have been administered by Osbourne and his affiliated companies in England and the United States, Blizzard Music Limited. The Complaint alleges that, although royalties have been paid to Daisley over the years, an audit conducted in 2014 showed that Osbourne and his company had been improperly deducting undisclosed fees before distributing royalties to Daisley and improperly withholding Daisley’s rightful share of royalties owed under the publishing agreements for the commercial exploitations of the songs.

“While Mr. Osbourne was benefitting from the songs co-authored by our client, the audit shows that he was systematically shortchanging Mr. Daisley,” said Crowell & Moring partner Alan Howard, who represents Mr. Daisley. “Mr. Daisley had no choice but to bring this action to secure his fair share of the proceeds those songs have generated.”

The Complaint in part requests an award of monetary damages for harm alleged to have been caused by Osbourne and Blizzard Music Limited’s fraudulent conduct, as well as punitive damages. The complaint also requests an accounting of the books and records of Blizzard US and Osbourne.

In response, reps for the Osbourne camp issued the following statement:

For the past 36 years, Mr. Daisley has been receiving bi-annual royalty statements and checks from Blizzard Music, totaling in the millions of dollars, which have been routinely cashed. Mr. Daisley has audited Blizzard Music accounts over the years using several different auditing firms who found no discrepancies. He has previously filed lawsuits in the UK and the US and has lost on each occasion.

We understand that Mr. Daisley is now in retirement and that these funds are his main source of income, so it is his right to be diligent with his money, but after 36 years, this is tantamount to harassment.  We would have hoped that after 36 years that Mr. Daisley would have lost his unhealthy personal obsession and resentment towards Mr. Osbourne's success. Blizzard Music and Mr. Osbourne plan to vigorously defend these proceedings.

In this first interview since filing his suit, Daisley explains his reasons behind taking legal action, the mechanics of songwriting and performance royalties and his response to Osbourne’s above statement.

Unfortunately, you have a long history of financial issues with the Osbournes. When was the first sign of trouble in working with them? How was this addressed by them at the time?

I've sued the Osbournes once. The initial financial issue had nothing to do with them. It came about when Don Arden/Jet Records didn’t pay us our performance royalties on the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman albums, so we had to seek legal advice. This was 1982, and in fact Sharon was helping us with our case. The issues weren't to do with her or Ozzy at that point.

Lee Kerslake and I went to court against Don Arden and Jet Records in '86 and we got a payout for owed performance royalties. But the ongoing royalties from those albums didn’t continue for us.

The first and only time that I went into court against the Osbournes was in 1998 when Lee and I found out that they had been receiving all royalties from those albums since July '83.

For the benefit of those who may not be fully aware of how payments work in the industry, what are the main differences between songwriting royalties and performance royalties? What is your current issue with songwriting royalties that you hope to address in this new suit?

Performance royalties are what you receive from the sale of records that you have played on, even though it may not be a song that you wrote. Songwriting royalties through the publishing company are from songs that you wrote that either you performed or maybe even someone else performed. A good example of that is Joe Cocker’s version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’ It wasn’t his song; it was a Beatles song. Joe Cocker gets the performance royalties from sales because it’s his performance of that song. But the royalties from the songwriting through the publishing company go to Lennon and McCartney because they wrote the song. That’s the basic different between the two types of royalties.

There’s also a royalty or payment that a writer gets if the song that he, she or they have written gets used in, say, a television advertisement, a television show, a video game, etc.… When the song is used, they have to get permission from the publisher to use the song, and there’s payment involved. That payment is termed 'synchronization fees,' or 'sync fees,' which the writers are entitled to a share of. As the complaint I just filed alleges, I haven't been getting all my sync fees, and Blizzard Music has been taking a higher percentage off the top than the contract I have with them allows them to take. When a publisher collects royalties and pays the writers, they take a percentage as their administrative payment for doing it – but here the Osbournes have been taking 25% rather than the 10% I agreed to. It’s also been mentioned in some of the press releases and comments that this case is about ‘Crazy Train.’ That’s the song that’s used most, whether it’s TV adverts, movies, sports games or video games. But there are other songs as well. I assigned all of my songs from the Blizzard and Diary albums to Blizzard Music, the Osbournes’ publishing company, so there are other songs. ‘Mr. Crowley', ‘Over The Mountain’, ‘Flying High Again’ have been used as well. It’s not just about ‘Crazy Train,’ although that was the most high-profile.

Your previous late-’90s suit against the Osbournes was ultimately unsuccessful, correct?

That was the one that was unsuccessful. The late '90s was when we found out where those royalties were going, so we took legal action against them.  There are reasons I believe that case was unsuccessful, having nothing to do with the merit of our claims, but they are too complex to get into now.

It was around that time that the original bass and drum tracks were replaced on the reissues of the first two albums.

Yeah, that’s why they were replaced.

What do you feel replacing those tracks did to the legacy of those recordings, particularly Randy’s contributions to them?

It was disgusting. It was such an insult to the music, the music fans and to Randy personally. Obviously, we were suing them, so we expected some backlash, although we did not expect that the integrity of the music would be compromised. And to insult Randy like that – to take his performances and put them with two other people without the knowledge or approval of his family – was very disrespectful.

In 2011, the original bass and drum tracks on the albums were restored for the 30th anniversary editions. How did that play out for you royalty-wise? Are you getting paid for your performance on the albums now?

No, nothing changed. We didn’t get performance royalties before, and we didn’t get performance royalties when our tracks were re-instated.

Unsurprisingly, the Osbourne camp has issued a press release regarding your new suit. What is your response?

(laughs) What they’ve said isn’t very accurate. Yes, I have had publishing money from the songwriting over the past 35 years. As far as what I’ve received being in the millions, no, it isn’t in the millions.

They’ve also said ‘Mr. Daisley’s now in retirement,’ and they try to make it look like, ‘Oh, he’s in retirement and now he needs money because he’s not doing anything.’ I wouldn’t care if I had $50 trillion – if somebody’s taking advantage of me, I want to put a stop to it.  I choose not to tour anymore, that's all, but I still write, play and record, and I’m currently doing a project that is a tribute to Gary Moore. There are some wonderful people on it who are either connected to the Gary Moore family tree or directly connected to the band. I’m just waiting on a couple of performances to come, and then we can start mixing and that album will be out. I’m really, really pleased that I've been able to do a tribute to Gary. He was amazing.

The Osbournes also said in their press release that I’m ‘harassing’ them... I'm not harassing anybody. I have had to resort to legal action to get the money they owe me.  And I look forward to all of the true facts coming out in the lawsuit.

They also said that you have an “unhealthy personal obsession” with Ozzy and resentment towards his success.

(laughs) No, I’m not obsessed. It’s great that Ozzy built a lot of his success on the stuff that we wrote, because his whole career and empire was built on the foundation of those first two albums that put him back on the map. That’s the foundation of what Ozzy and Sharon are sitting on. I wish Ozzy every success. I just have a problem with not getting paid properly.

It just seems it would be easier for them to simply pay you.

(laughs) It would have been a lot easier. Let’s look at it this way. There was enough money and enough success to pay everybody fairly and honestly. You don’t need to take money out of other people’s pockets, especially the people who helped your career…I don’t get it. I would prefer not having to go to court. But when you’re being taken advantage of, that is the remedy you have.

I've also been asked why I waited so long to take action regarding these royalties and the answer is simple. The Osbournes were good at hiding what they were doing, and it was only relatively recently that I found out what was happening to me.

(For greater insight into the full history of Daisley’s legal issues with the Osbournes and/or Don Arden/Jet Records, check out his 2013 autobiography, For Facts Sake.)

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