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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. songwriter and record producer Linda Perry is suing Warner Music Group for not turning over millions of dollars in royalties from the debut album of her protege, English singer James Blunt.
Perry's California-based record company, Custard, filed suit against Warner Music Group and one of its labels, Atlantic Records, which distributed Blunt's wildly successful album "Back to Bedlam," claiming breach of contract. The suit, seeking lost royalties and $5 million in punitive damages, was filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
Perry, the former lead singer and songwriter for rock group 4 Non Blondes, has written and produced hits for Gwen Stefani, Pink and Christina Aguilera.
"Back to Bedlam" sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. A single from the album, "You're Beautiful," reached the No. 1 spot in the United States, United Kingdom and other European music charts. Atlantic has grossed more than $100 million dollars in sales from Blunt, the suit said.
"Atlantic's wrongdoing follows the far too familiar scenario involving a large multinational corporate record company which takes advantage of a small, independent production company after the production company presents the major label with a promising new artist," the lawsuit said.
Warner Music Group spokesman Will Tanous said Atlantic Records valued its relationship with Perry.
"Custard has always been and will continue to be compensated in accordance with the terms of its contractual arrangement with Atlantic," he said.
Perry said after discovering Blunt in 2003, she signed him to her label and delivered "Back to Bedlam" to Atlantic, which initially showed a "general lack of support" for the album, according to the suit.
Had it not been for Perry and Custard, "it is likely that Blunt's album would never have been released and no one would ever have known who he was," the suit said.
Under the original 2003 contract, Atlantic agreed to turn over a basic royalty of 20 percent of U.S. sales from Blunt's album to Custard, which then passed 13 percent onto Blunt.
After the album became successful, Atlantic reacted to demands from Blunt's management for a greater share of the royalties by reducing Custard's share from 7 percent to 4 percent, instead of cutting their own profits, the suit said.
Both sides agree Blunt had nothing to do with the dispute.