Brooker v Fisher reaches House of Lords

May 2009

Music publishing

The dispute over the songwriting and royalties of the UK’s most played record, Procul Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Palehas reached the House of Lords. Matthew Fisher, who played the organ on the track, claims he is entitled to a share of royalties dating back to 1967. In 2006, the High Court ruled he was entitled to 40% the copyright, but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal last year with Lord Justice Mummery ruling that Mr Fisher, now a computer programmer from Croydon, south London, was “guilty of excessive and inexcusable delay in asserting his claim” saying “He silently stood by and acquiesced in the defendant’s commercial exploitation of the work for 38 years”. Mr Brooker’s solicitor, Lawrence Abramson, has said that if the law Lords overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling, the implications for the music industry could be severe. He said it would open up the prospect of countless claims from musicians who felt their contribution to a song had been overlooked in some way, regardless of past contracts.

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