April 4, 2008
Singer wins ‘Whiter Shade’ appeal
Court of Appeal rules organist's claim defeated by laches and acquiscence
Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker has won his appeal against the ruling that organist Matthew Fisher was entitled to 40% of the royalties to ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.
In 2006, Blackburne J had held that the organist had made a substantial contribution to the composition of the song, which became a worldwide hit, and awarded him 40% of future royalties.
Today the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling by a majority (David Richards J dissenting). Mummery LJ ruled that Fisher was guilty of “excessive and inexcusable delay” in bringing his claim to be co-author of the worldwide hit. “He silently stood by and acquiesced in the defendant’s commercial exploitation of the work for 38 years,” the judge said, which acquiescence “has made it unconscionable and inequitable for him to seek to exercise control over the commercial exploitation of the copyright in the [song].”