Status Quo face past royalty claim from departed band members

January 2006


After narrowly avoiding litigation with ‘mad fan’ Les Battersby whilst making guest star appearances in UK soap Coronation Street recently, Status Quo members Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi faced court room reality when Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt ruled that founding members, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan had realistic prospects of success in several claims for past royalties. Parfitt and Rossi continue trading as Status Quo with replacement musician. The case continues and the trial will be heard at a later date.  Simon Jacobs, Partner at Seddons said “It is most unusual for claims such as these to be successful which is why we are so pleased with the result”. Indeed the 1994 case involving Cure co-founder and drummer Laurence (Lol) Tolhurst is a good example of a claim for royalties from a departed band member. Tolhurst was asked to leave the band in 1989 and sued Robert Smith, the lead singer and the bands record label over the division of royalties from a recording agreement in1986. Tolhurst claimed he only had the ‘crumbs’ of the income from the recording agreement and that Smith had the lion’s share and was looking for 50% of all profits receivable under the 1986 agreement. Tolhurst failed in the claim after the court found that there was no partnership in place between Tolhurst and Smith regarding the 1986 agreement and that the two had come to a separate agreement regarding the division of income. However success in these cases is not unknown. In 1996 the former drummer of the Smiths, Mike Joyce, brought a claim against Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Smithdom Ltd. This resulted in a High Court victory for Joyce and former bassist Andy Rourke when the court held that Joyce and Rourke were each entitled to 25 per cent each of all income other than publishing income in respect of the band’s activities when they were members.

Source: Seddons’ press release

Joyce v. Morrissey, Marr and Smithdom Limited (1996)

Tolhurst v Smith & Others (1994) EMLR 508 and see

For details on the position of managers see Martin-Smith v Williams (1997) in Music The Business (Ann Harrison, 2nd Ed, 2003, Virgin Books) where the court recognised the difficult position managers are put in when a band splits up or when band members force out one or more of their number (in this case Take That and Robbie Williams)

The more common dispute between band members is over songwriting credits and publishing royalties. The position on band members contributing to songwriting is set out in Hadley and Others v Kemp and Another (1999) EMLR 589 where it was held that a contribution by performers does not constitute original an contribution to the creation of the work (so the performer is not a co-author of the work with the songwriters[s]). However this may need revisiting in light of the recent decision by Patten J in Hyperion Records v Sawkins (2004) EWHC 1530 (Ch) which casts some doubt on this decision.

Mr Justice Patten held that copyright subsisted in the ‘edition’ version of a public domain work by 18th-century French composer Lalande ‘recreated’ by Dr Sawkins even though no significant changes were made to the melody (see Law Updates April 2005, June 2005 and August 2004 and see the articles at atsee the more general comments from a variety ofcommentators on what copyright should and shouldn’t protect in light of Hyperion at,11711,1673320,00.html. Also see Authorship of Popular Music Under UK Copyright Law by Lionel Bentley at See Wood v Boosey (1868) LR 3 QB 33 and Redwood Music v Chappell (1982) RPC 109

For Status Quo see and for the band’s biography see and

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