Rafael Ithier Sues Charlie Aponte

In 2014, singer Charlie Aponte left the legendary salsa orchestra of El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, of which he was vocalist for four decades, to start a solo career. Although he released two musical productions with new songs, during his personal performances Aponte continued to sing the songs he made famous as part of "The Mulattos of Taste."

However, Rafael Ithier, founder and director of El Gran Combo has filed a lawsuit in the federal forum against Aponte related to the payment of digital royalties for these songs.

According to the document presented on November 8, it is based on the copyright laws of the United States.


The legal action involves property interests before the right to collect royalties for digital reproductions as an artist who interprets musical material in recordings (masters) that belong to third parties. Rafael Ithier is mentioned as director and founder of The Great Combo of Puerto Rico who has been identified as the main artist in each of his productions.

The lawsuit states that Aponte has claimed to have the right to receive royalties corresponding to digital reproductions as the principal artist of The Great Combo, under the Sound Exchange system.

Then the lawsuit seeks that Ithier be recognized as the only artist entitled to royalties under the Sound Exchange that is identified as a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the management of collective property rights.

Sound Exchange collects these royalties for reproductions made by cable or satellite television, when a song is played through these platforms such as the Music Choice digital cable service, or Muzak (Dish television service). According to the information included in the lawsuit, it is estimated that Sound Exchange has paid more than $ 5 billion to artists and owners of rights to songs.

According to the lawsuit, Ithier has always been identified as the founder and sole owner of El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. Ithier is also the employer of the orchestra, so that the members of the orchestra are legally identified as contract employees, who do not have the right to claim royalties for their work either as members of the orchestra or once having abandoned it.

It is for this reason that Ithier requests that Aponte desist from collecting royalties for reproductions of the recordings made by him with The Great Combo.

It is estimated, according to the document that Aponte, knowing that he cannot request royalties for his work in El Gran Combo, would have claimed 45% of the royalties for digital reproductions.

By way of compensation, Ithier claims to be recognized by Sound Exchange as the only person entitled to receive royalties from digital reproductions of the recordings of The Great Combo of Puerto Rico.

In addition to Aponte, his wife and two companies not identified by name have been included in the lawsuit.