Royalty Row May End Up In Lords

The row over who owns the musical copyright for "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" may be decided by the House Of Lords, after the Court Of Appeal reversed a High Court decision awarding 40 percent to former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher.

Fisher, a classically trained musician, has been given leave to take the matter to the highest court in the land after the Appeal Court decided by a majority verdict that, although he’s a co-writer, he isn’t entitled to royalties.

He had originally tried to claim a half share from Procol Harum’s vocalist and pianist Gary Brooker for his Hammond organ theme based on Bach fugues.

In the High Court in 2006 Mr Justice Blackburne awarded him the lesser amount of 40 percent and refused to backdate the royalty on the "summer of love" anthem because it had taken Fisher nearly four decades to make his claim on the massive worldwide hit.

Lord Justice Mummery laid down the majority verdict April 3 and said that Fisher, now a computer programmer in south London, was "guilty of excessive and inexcusable delay in asserting his claim."

"A Whiter Shade Of Pale" has earned the status of an enduring classic and still earns substantial royalties for the owners of the copyright – originally Brooker and lyric writer Keith Reid.

In 2004, performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited named it the most-played record by British broadcasting in the past 70 years.

Brooker, who still fronts Procol Harum, is also fighting Fisher over who should pay the estimated £500,000 legal costs of the action.

Lord Justice Mummery said that the costs issue would be decided at a later date, together with an application to take the case to the House of Lords for a final appeal.