Pittsburgh-area rocker Donnie Iris whose biggest hit was “The Rapper” claimed in a lawsuit that Sony did not pay royalties for sampling a lesser-known song that wound up on a rap record by The Game, “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 in Pittsburgh by Dominic Ierace and two others.
Better known by the stage name of Donnie Iris, Mr. 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. Mr. Rock managed the group when the song appeared on the album “We Went to Different Schools Together” in 1970.
Mr. Ierace, who was born in New Castle and grew up in Ellwood City, 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.
He was also a member of Wild Cherry, though after the band's hit "Play That Funky Music" was released.
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 the songwriters say the record company owes.