Top NY court backs music publisher's claim for Duke Ellington royalties from foreign sales

Associated Press

New York's highest court has refused to reinstate the lawsuit by jazz composer Duke Ellington's heirs against publisher EMI seeking half the royalties from foreign sales of his music.

The 2010 suit alleges breach of the 1961 standard songwriter royalty contract the late pianist, bandleader and composer signed with Mills Music, predecessor of EMI, now part of global Sony/ATV Music. The contract calls for an even split of net revenue.

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Ellington wrote "It Don't Mean a Thing" and other big band hits.

His heirs say EMI should stop deducting 50 percent commissions to foreign subpublishers, which it now owns, before splitting the rest with them.

The Court of Appeals says the publisher by contract can keep deducting payments to foreign subpublishers that are now its affiliates before splitting the rest with Ellington's heirs.