Court of Appeal calls time in Quo battle: Lancaster and another v Handle Artists Management Ltd[2008] All ER (D) 308 (Apr)

June 2008


by Cassandra Williams, postgraduate student at the College of Law

In the case of Lancaster and another v Handle Artists Management Limited and others [ 2005] All ER (D) 128 (Nov) a claim was made by two former Status Quo band members Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan for payment of back catalogue royalties primarily against the two continuing band members Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi who continued with others as status Quo (see and initially resulted in a victor for Lancaster and Coghlan, The claim centred on certain ‘Pye’ royalties (going back to the sixties) and other Phonogram royalties (going back to the seventies). As was normal at the time, the Pye contracts were made directly with individual band members but as Status Quo became more successful the contractual arrangements “merged” with contracts made with the band’s corporate vehicles. At the end of the trial the Pye royalty claims were upheld and it was declared that the royalty shares belonging to the Claimants, Coghlan and Lancaster, were held by the continuing band members on constructive trust despite the fact that they had signed a deed relinquishing their rights to further – the trial judge constructed the deed of release signed by the parties against the confused factual background at the time the deed was entered into. Although the deed was expressed in the widest possible terms and was in respect of ‘any and all sums of money’ the judge concluded that the deed of release signed by the first claimant did not include royalties paid under the ‘Pye agreements’. The case was appealed and The Court of Appeal felt that the Judge at first instance had ‘erred’ in his judgment by giving the narrow ratio which was incorrect. At trial the royalties were said to be held on constructive trust for the claimants but the Court Of Appeal held that on the true construction of the deed, the judge had erred in construing the language of the document narrowly. The language of the deed of release had been formulated in the language of the clean break and there was nothing in the deed, or the factual matrix existing at the time the deed had been entered into, to indicate that the ‘Pye agreements’ should not be included. However with further appeal allowed it will be interesting to see whether this case makes it all the way to the House of Lords.

Maintaining the Status Quo – record royalties, protecting and claiming your share – by Robert Deacon

Lancaster and another v Handle Artists Management Ltd [2008] All ER (D) 308 (Apr)

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