Virgin Records filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, seeking damages in excess of $30 million from one of the biggest bands on their roster, the Jared Leto-led 30 Seconds to Mars.
According to the suit, Virgin claims Leto and his brother, Shannon, failed to produce three of the five records the band was obligated to deliver under its 1999 contract, which it entered into with the now-defunct Immortal Records. In 2004, Virgin took over that contract, which the Letos later “repudiated,” claiming that they were “excused from such performance from and after July 4, 2008, pursuant to California Labor Code Sec. 2855 (a).” That law mandates that a contract “may not be enforced against the employee beyond seven years from the commencement of service under it.”
“EMI’s relationship with [30 Seconds to Mars] has been extremely rewarding and successful for both the band and the company,” the label said in a statement. “The hard work of EMI’s global team and of the band has resulted in sales of 3 million albums and singles, multiple awards and a growing, global fanbase. However, we have been forced to take procedural, legal steps in order to protect EMI’s investment and rights during contract renegotiations initiated by the band and management. We hope to resolve these matters amicably and put them behind us so we can continue working in partnership with the band to take them to even greater levels of success.”
Leto took to the band’s Web site over the weekend to respond to some of the claims set forth in the suit and to dismiss rumors that the band had called it quits. In late July, Mars’ manager told MTV News that they’d soon be entering the studio to begin tracking the follow-up to 2005’s A Beautiful Lie.
Leto, who referred to Virgin as the band’s “former record company,” called the suit “ridiculously overblown,” “insane” and “totally unrealistic” before giving the band’s fans his own account of the situation.
“We had been signed to our record contract for nine years,” he wrote. “Basically, under California law, where we live and signed our deal, one cannot be bound to a contract for more than seven years. This is widely known by all the record companies and has been for years. In fact, so aware of it are they that they desperately try to make deals outside of California whenever possible. It is a law that protects people from lengthy, unfair, career-spanning contracts. This law also gave us the legal right to explore other possible opportunities.”
Leto said the band wasn’t being sued for not delivering music. “We have been sued by the corporation quite simply because roughly 45 days ago, we exercised our legal right to terminate our old, out-of-date contract, which, according to the law is null and void,” he said. “We terminated for a number of reasons, which we won’t go into here.”
Leto further claims that the band has sold more than 2 million records, but that 30 Seconds to Mars hasn’t been paid any royalties, and that, according to the label, “we are still $1.4 million dollars in debt” and that “the next record we make will be used to pay off that old supposed debt.”
He also said that several EMI employees the band had been working with were laid-off, “[so] we have lost many of the people that were near and dear to us at Virgin/EMI and crucial to the success of 30 Seconds to Mars. A few of the great ones are still there, but it is hardly the same company we have known.”
He blasted the label for going public with the suit, and for forcing him to go on the defense. “We did not want to take this public, but we felt it best to explain our point of view to you, our friends and fans, in hope that you can better understand our point of view,” he wrote. “We would always do our best to avoid a fight, but sometimes it’s important to stand up for what you believe in. We hope that by doing what’s right, we can help to change things for the better, for ourselves and possibly others.”