Carin Leon’s former manager is suing distribution company Oplaai and two of its executives for copyright infringement over allegations of underpaid royalties.
In the lawsuit, Javier “El Tamarindo” González, CEO of Tamarindo Rekordsz, alleges that he has not been properly paid by Oplaai – his indie label’s distributor since 2018 – for revenues from Leon’s music. González owns all copyrights for songs recorded by Leon during the term of their recording deal that started in 2018 through last December.
According to the claim, Oplaai has “infringed, and continues to infringe” upon González’s copyrights in the sound recordings and compositions by “reproducing, distributing, selling, promoting, advertising, performing by means of digital audio transmission, and otherwise commercially exploiting without authority or consent.” Oplaai’s CEOs Marylu Ramos and Victor Zambrano are also named as defendants.
González and Oplaai’s partnership began in 2018 through an oral distribution agreement where he says he “granted” Oplaai a two-year license to distribute new Tamarindo Rekordsz recordings delivered to Oplaai during that period. According to the complaint, the deal would be renewed for subsequent one-year terms if both parties agreed.
Initially, the deal was that Oplaai would collect all revenue derived from Tamarindo Rekordsz’s catalog and retain 30% of the net revenue (as a distribution fee) and pay 70% of the net revenue to Tamarindo Rekordsz (as a royalty). Following Leon’s massive success during 2019 and 2020 – Oplaai “agreed” in 2021 to lower its distribution fee to 14% and to pay Tamarindo royalties in the amount of 86% of the net revenues collected by Oplaai from the catalog.
By the end of 2022, Leon and González announced they had mutually agreed to part ways after the five-year relationship, during which Leon earned his first Latin Grammy win, plus 11 entries on the Hot Latin Songs chart and 10 top-10 songs on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart.
After Leon and González negotiated a release agreement – ratifying González as the owner of all rights (including copyrights) pertaining to Leon’s recordings from February 2018 until the date of the release agreement – González formally notified Oplaai that he was terminating their pact effective April 11, according to the lawsuit. He also requested Oplaai provide him with a simple catalog delivery file so that Tamarindo Rekordsz could “commence alternative distribution.”
After the termination, “neither Oplaai, Ramos, or Zambrano had the right to copy, sell, distribute, license, or publicly perform any of the Sound Recordings. Nor did they have a license or right to exploit the Compositions.” Yet, according to the lawsuit, “even after confirming that the Distribution Agreement was terminated and representing that it had instructed its distributor to take down all Tamarindo-controlled content, Oplaai, at Ramos’ and Zambrano’s direction, has continued to distribute and exploit the Sound Recordings without license or authorization, in violation of Tamarindo’s exclusive rights.”
Furthermore, Oplaai has collected revenue from DSP’s including YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon, among others, “as a result of its unauthorized distribution and exploitation of the Sound Recordings,” according to the claim. The lawsuit also states that Oplaai has “improperly” charged the indie label a 30% distribution fee for March and April 2023 and failed to pay Tamarindo royalties for that period. And that Oplaai has failed to provide Tamarindo with the requested migration files, thereby requiring González’s new distributor to “manually upload the data, codes, music, and other necessary information to the DSPs to migrate the catalog.”
González claims that he has suffered damages in a “specific, identifiable amount to be proven at trial” and is seeking “all gains, profits, and advantages derived by Defendants from their infringements of Tamarindo’s and Tons’ copyrights.”
Billboard reached out to Oplaai but did not hear back at press time.