Linkin Park is facing a lawsuit that claims it has refused to credit or pay royalties to an ex-bassist who played with the band in the late 1990s — a legal battle triggered by an anniversary re-release of the band’s smash hit 2000 debut album.
In a complaint filed Wednesday (Nov. 8) federal court, Kyle Christner says he helped creating many songs that were included on the 2020 box-set edition of Hybrid Theory, which holds the lofty distinction as the best-selling rock album of the 21st century. But he says his contributions have been effectively erased.
“Christner has never been paid a penny for his work with Linkin Park, nor has he been properly credited, even as defendants have benefitted from his creative efforts,” his lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
Christner claims he was a member of Linkin Park for several months in 1999, until he was “abruptly informed” that he had been fired shortly before the band signed a record deal with Warner Records. But before his exit, Christner claims he played bass on a self-released EP and on several demo recordings, some of which he says he “helped compose.”
His lawsuit claims that as many as 20 of those recordings were released as goodies on the 2020 re-release, making him “a joint creator of many tracks in the box set.” That includes a song called “Could Have Been,” a never-before-released demo track that has amassed 949,000 views on YouTube.
According to Christner, the situation came to a head earlier this year when he was contacted by a Linkin Park representative offering him royalties for the Hybrid Theory re-release. The email allegedly read: “You get mechanical royalties for 3 demos and the 6-song Hybrid Theory EP that you performed on.”
Christner responded by pressing the band for a more detailed explanation of his royalty breakdown, and arguing that he was entitled to a cut from a greater number of tracks — “more than twenty songs.” He later told the band: “If you do not believe I deserve writing credits on these songs, please state your reasons for that in your response.”
Later, after lawyers got involved, Christner says the band backtracked, denying that his work appeared in the box set at all.
“In other words, after admitting that Christner played on at least some tracks included in the box set and admitting that Christner was entitled to at least some ‘mechanical’ royalties, which are royalties paid for compositions, defendants repudiated Christner’s co-authorship and co-ownership of the works at issue,” his lawyers wrote in Wednesday’s complaint.
In technical terms, the lawsuit is asking a judge to issue a so-called declaratory judgment that says Christner is a co-author and co-owner of the copyrights in question, and to weigh in on the “rights and obligations of the parties” — meaning, whether the band owes him a cut of royalties and how much. He also is asking for a court-ordered accounting of royalties for the disputed songs.
As defendants, the lawsuit personally names Linkin Park’s living members (Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson and Joseph Hahn), as well as its business entity, Machine Shop Entertainment LLC, and the band’s label Warner Records.
A rep for Linkin Park did not immediately return a request for comment.
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