Ex-Pumpkins Sue for Tomorrow

James Iha, D'arcy go after Virgin Records for inking deal for ringtone, other digital royalties solely with Billy Corgan

By Natalie Finn Jul 24, 2008 11:45 PMTags
Smashing PumpkinsVirgin

UPDATE: A lawyer for the ex-Pumpkins said Nov. 30, 2009, that the suit had been settled.

"It was a good settlement," Steven M. Sweat said. "My clients are glad to have this behind them."

A couple of former Pumpkins are ripe for courting.

James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky-Brown, original strummers for alt-rock hitmakers the Smashing Pumpkins, have sued Virgin Records America, claiming the band's former longtime label screwed them out of royalties for ringtones, file downloads and other "electronic transmissions."

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Virgin inked an exclusive deal with frontman Billy Corgan in 2005 to license their tunes without Iha's and D'arcy's OKs.

"Such unauthorized commercial exploitation by Virgin constitutes a material breach under a recording agreement" the plaintiffs and Corgan entered into with the label in 1998, which included clauses covering distribution channels and "technology...hereafter developed," the suit states.

The deal, which came after the Smashing Pumpkins' acclaimed double-disc album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was certified eight-times platinum, was meant to give the band—which by 1999 would no longer include D'arcy—"significant control and approval rights over the creation, marketing and sale of their recordings."

The rest of the Pumpkins, who by then had added former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur to the mix, disbanded in 2001. Corgan, whose solo career and musical exploits with Zwan produced underwhelming results, and original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin revived the band in 2006.

According to Iha and D'arcy, when Virgin approached Corgan in 2005, it constituted a breach of the contract inked in 1998 and left the guitarist and bassist in the dust when it came to the band's new-media spoils.

The creatively coiffed plaintiffs are asking for unspecified general, special and incidental damages to compensate for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment and accounting violations.

But while Iha and D'arcy aren't in on the Smashing Pumpkins 2.0 (which is signed to Reprise Records), the duo reteamed with Corgan in March on another lawsuit aimed at Virgin, this one because their ex-label allowed the band's name to be used in a promo campaign for Pepsi Stuff.

According to their complaint, the campaign "deceived and confused the public into believing that [the band is] affiliated with the promotion" by promising consumers free and discounted Pumpkins song downloads at Amazon.com in exchange for points accumulated from buying Pepsi products.

The trio maintain that Virgin only has the right to sell online downloads of tunes the band wrote and recorded while signed with the label and that Virgin had no right to use them to peddle unrelated products.