LONDON (Reuters) - Procol Harum founder Gary Brooker on Friday won his court battle over royalty rights to the band’s most famous hit, the 1967 song “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
In 2006 London’s High Court awarded former keyboard player Matthew Fisher 40 percent of the copyright of the track, which has sold an estimated 10 million copies worldwide, after he successfully argued that he wrote the organ music to the song.
Brooker appealed, and on Friday judge John Mummery said that, while Fisher should be credited with co-authorship of the seminal track, the fact that it took him 38 years to take the case to court meant he should not benefit financially.
“Matthew Fisher is guilty of excessive and inexcusable delay in his claim to assert joint title to a joint interest in the work,” Mummery said in his judgment.
“He silently stood by and acquiesced in the defendant’s commercial exploitation of the work for 38 years.”
Fisher described the appeal court’s ruling as “peculiar.”
“Having demolished every single argument advanced by Gary Brooker’s legal team ... Mummery suddenly produced an argument of his own, like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat,” the musician said on his Web site www.matthewfisher.com.
“This argument is so obscure and oblique as to defy comprehension.”
He added that for him the case was never about money but getting due credit for what he called “the most commercial and essential feature” of the haunting ballad, namely the famous organ introduction.
Brooker welcomed the court’s decision, which he said had “gone some way to putting this right.
“For nearly three years this claim has been a great strain upon myself and my family,” he said in a statement. “I believe the original trial was unfair and the results wrong.”
Brooker, who still fronts Procol Harum, is arguing with Fisher over who should pay the legal costs in the case, which are believed to run to several hundred thousand pounds (dollars).
Fisher may also take the case to the House of Lords, the highest court in the country.
Although Fisher won the 2006 case, a judge rejected his claim to half of the copyright of the hit and back royalties estimated to be worth around one million pounds ($2 million).
Fisher sued Brooker and Onward Music Ltd, and during the original trial the High Court reverberated to the sound of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” whose accompaniment is based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s works including “Air on a G String.”
Editing by Paul Casciato