Attorney General Steps In To Make Sure Diddy Gets His Due

Rapper and other artists were owed back royalties by record labels.

It's hard to imagine anyone not being able to find P. Diddy, given the fact that he's a well-regarded music mogul, runs a popular clothing company, starred in his own TV show, made headlines by running the New York Marathon for charity, and currently has the starring role in a Broadway play.

But when his record company owed him some back royalties, it said it didn't know where to send the check.

Diddy, David Bowie, the Dave Matthews Band and Gloria Estefan are among the artists who'll be receiving back royalties in accordance with a deal reached Tuesday (May 4) by the five major-label conglomerates and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, according to his spokesperson. The labels agreed to return nearly $50 million in unclaimed artist royalties, half of which they already have sent out.

A two-year investigation found that artists and writers weren't getting their rightful dues because record companies lost contact with some of them and therefore withheld payment. Besides the more recognizable names, which also included Elvis Presley (who's owed approximately $9,659), John Mellencamp (approximately $18,771) and Dolly Parton (approximately $17,568), the list of owed artists mostly contains thousands of lesser-known musicians and one-hit wonders.

Spitzer applauded the record companies for their cooperation in the matter, noting that they could have fought the initiative.

"Record companies aggressively and proactively search for artists and others who are owed royalties and have not claimed them," Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a statement. "In recent years, the Internet has made this task easier, particularly where artists have moved without providing updated contact information. When artists cannot be located because, for example, they or their estates have moved without providing contact information, the royalties are held by the company for the artist to claim them."

As part of the deal, the labels agreed to list online the name of artists and writers to whom they owe payments, post advertisements in trade magazines outlining procedures for unclaimed royalties, work with music-industry groups and unions to find artists, and share contact information with other record companies.