Carpenter's lawsuit seeks more than $2 million in royalties and is also being filed on behalf of the estate of his sister, Karen Carpenter, who died in 1983.
The Carpenters won three Grammy Awards in 1970 and 1971, including for their song "Close to You."
The suit, which also names Universal subsidiary A&M Records, is one of a number of lawsuits filed after a 2010 appellate court ruled in a case involving Eminem's record label that music downloads from services such as iTunes should result in higher payments to artists. That ruling called for artists to receive substantially higher royalty payments for digital downloads of their music than they do when a physical recording is sold.
Carpenter says he has been unable to resolve the dispute without suing. "The Carpenters recordings are among the best sellers in the history of popular music and after 48 years continue to contribute a substantial amount to UMG/A&M's annual bottom line," he wrote in a statement. "It seems only fair that these companies account fairly to my sister's estate and to me."
An email message to Universal Music Group was not immediately returned.
Carpenter has hired attorney Larry Iser, who has represented numerous artists in disputes over licensing and use of their music.
""It is unfortunate that the Carpenters were forced to file this lawsuit primarily over an issue that has already been resolved by the courts - but which these record companies still refuse to acknowledge - that digital downloads occur pursuant to license and are not sales of records," Iser said.
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