Universal sued by Grammy-nominated songwriter Jon Hume over use of audio stems in Dean Lewis hit Be Alright

Credit: Tim Tambourine, CC BY-SA 4.0
Jon Hume

Grammy-nominated songwriter Jon Hume has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group and Universal Music Group Australia in a dispute over audio stems used in Dean Lewis’s hit, Be Alright.

The lawsuit was filed by Australia-born, but now Nashville-based Hume, in a Tennessee court on Wednesday (June 19).

Hume has worked with artists including Dean Lewis (Be Alright, Half A Man and How Do I Say Goodbye), as well as Sofi Tukker, Bebe Rexha, JP Cooper, NEEDTOBREATHE and Calum Scott.

Released in 2018, Be Alright has been streamed over 1.7 billion times on Spotify alone.

Hume says in the lawsuit that he and Lewis, a UMG/UMG Australia artist, composed Be Alright “on or about September 2015″.

He adds that, while they were writing and recording the demo for the song, Hume created various audio tracks i.e “stems” of him playing each instrument used in the demo.

Hume claims that he “also acted as the producer and, using his musical stems, created the original recording of Be Alright”.

The lawsuit claims further: “Hume, solely, produced the Original Recording and performed and recorded every instrument, excluding Dean Lewis’ vocal, embodied on it.

“Each of those recordings of musical instruments was recorded on an individual stem, which, when combined, composed the entirety of the sounds embodied on the Original Recording, other than the Dean Lewis vocal tracks.”

Hume claims in his lawsuit, which you can read in full here, that later in 2016, then-UMG Australia MD Michael Taylor requested via email in July 2016 “that Hume send the Stems to another producer”.

In that same email, addressed to Hume, and his wife and manager Karen Hume, Taylor told the Humes that “in order to save time – and money” the Stems recorded during the writing of Be Alright “were to be used as ‘reference’ only and that “no usage of the Stems from the demo [a reference to the Original Recording] would go into the Master.”

Hume alleges that Michael Taylor then emailed him the following month to ask if UMG could use the original Stems “in the main” and that the email “closed with a ‘smiley face’ symbol”.

According to the lawsuit, UMG Australia and Hume then discussed giving Hume a producer credit on Be Alright due the expected use of the audio stems. On Spotify, he is currently credited as a songwriter on the track.

But Hume says in the complaint that on May 1, 2018, former UMG Australia MD Michael Taylor, on behalf of the company “purposefully and intentionally advised the Humes” that UMG Australia didn’t end up using any of the Stems from the writing session with Dean Lewis in the final master recording after all.

The lawsuit then alleges that in December 2023, Dean Lewis provided Jon Hume with the “entire collection of stems comprising the Released Master [of Be Alright] as a reference for another song for which Dean Lewis was seeking Jon Hume’s services”.

He claims that when he received those stems he “discovered that, contrary to UMG’s representations, more than fifty percent (50%) of the Stems embodied in the Original Recording were also embodied in the Released Master”.

“Contrary to UMG’s representations, more than fifty percent (50%) of the STEMS embodied in the Original Recording were also embodied in the Released Master.”

Lawsuit filed by Jon Hume

Hume is suing UMG and UMG Australia for copyright infringement, alleging that they “misappropriated the sounds embodied on the Stems and that they “concealed and misrepresented to [Hume] that they have not used the Stems”.

Hume’s complaint also says that UMG “has claimed and registered a Copyright in the sound recording of the Released Master embodying [Hume’s] sounds” and that “the Defendants have directly infringed Plaintiff’s Copyright in the Stems”.

He seeks “statutory damages, compensatory damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs from [UMG] for their direct infringements”.

He also seeks “an accounting of all ‘profits’ as defined in 17 U.SC. § 504, attributable to the infringements received” by UMG.

Additionally, Hume has asked that “in the alternative” to his copyright infringement claim, he wants the court to issue “a declaration” stating that “he is a joint author and qualified copyright claimant of the Released Master”.

He claims that a “substantial controversy” exists “between himself and the defendants “as to whether [Hume] is an author of the released master” recording or not. The lawsuit continues: “Declaration by the Court would terminate the controversy between Plaintiff and Defendants.”

Hume’s lawsuit also claims that he has a “right to an accounting from Defendants of any and all profits obtained as a direct or indirect result of Defendants’ exploitation of the Released Master, and to payment of Plaintiffs’ share of such profits”.

The complaint continues: “Defendants have a duty to account for profits obtained, derived, or resulting from the exploitation of the Released Master, including, but not limited to, any other person or entity acting under a license, sublicense, lease and/or transfer of rights under the Released Master issued formally or informally by Defendants.”

 Music Business Worldwide

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