The management of music rights can be confusing. This is particularly the case for songwriters who have a large catalogue of work and/or have a history of falling out with their publishers, managers and advisers. A recent case at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has highlighted how important it is to manage your rights, be honest about what you’ve created and try not to fall out with people.
The case concerns Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry who, the IPEC ruled, misrepresented or gave an implied warranty that his company owned the rights in the song Alright, Alright, Alright (Alright).
Alright was released in 1973 by Mungo Jerry following the band’s worldwide hit In the Summertime. During the promotion of Alright, Dorset told the BBC “It’s a French song. A guy called Jacques Dutronc recorded it… about 6 years ago. It’s called in French…’Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi’…I just changed the arrangement and things around a bit…”
Shortly before its release, Alright came to attention of EMA, which owned the rights in the song Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi (Et Moi). They agreed a deal with Dorset’s publisher, that the copyrights in the song Alright would be split between Dutronc and Lanzmann (the writers of Et Moi), with additional lyrics by Joe Strange, Dorset’s pseudonym. Dorset’s manager, Barry Murray, signed on his behalf.
Dorset received royalties via SACEM but for the UK collecting societies, most of his catalogue, including Alright, was wrongly registered with Murray as the sole composer. Dorset and Murray fell out. In 1976, the PRS confirmed that Dorset’s songs were re-registered in his name. Alright was re-registered with Dutronc as composer and lyrics by Lanzmann and Dorset. Dorset was alright (alright, alright) about this.
Around 1990, Dorset took advice from Eliot Cohen, ran AMI. They had previously worked together until they fell out. Dorset claimed that he had not received royalties for Alright and told Cohen. The two of them devised what the judge called a ‘ham-fisted’ plan to back date the registration of Alright with PRS and MCPS, with Dorset as the sole composer. The split of his performing royalties was 50/50 between him and his company Satellite Music Limited (Satellite) with 100% of the mechanical royalties due to Satellite. They dated the form 11 June 1972, before the song was written and before Satellite existed.
In 2007, Dorset and Cohen fell out again. They attempted to resolve matters by way of an agreement whereby Satellite purported to transfer copyrights in numerous works including Alright to Dorset and AMI. Dorset subsequently licensed his share to Universal and AMI granted a similar licence to Sony/ATV.
When EMA discovered that there was a potential challenge to the ownership of Alright, they took action against Universal and Sony/ ATV. As the case unfurled, EMA pursued Dorset and AMI. EMA’s claim against AMI was settled on terms including a payment of £33,600 by AMI to EMA.
AMI sued Dorset following his misrepresentation that his company, Satellite, owned the copyright in Alright. The judge found Mr Dorset had misrepresented the position and ordered that he reimburse AMI the sum of £33,600.
We don’t know if they have made friends again yet but we do know how to help you manage your music rights. If you need our help then please get in touch.