Copyright holder to battle over release

Roger Pearson reports. The owner of copyright on a 1960s pop ballad is preparing to battle with its publishers in the High Court. A £100,000 High Court confrontation is looming over royalties for the words of the 1960s Englebert Humperdinck hit Release Me.

Robert Harris, who claims to own copyright of the song's lyrics, has launched a claim against London-based Palace Music Co, accusing it of breach of contract and failure to pay royalties.

Harris' writ claims that he assigned his copyright of the lyrics of the song to Palace under a written agreement in January 1967.

But it alleges that in breach of that contract he has not been paid royalties for use of the song since December 1996.

Nor, claims the writ, has he been paid fees for use of the song in adverts for Boddington's Beer and Hartley's Jam.

Now Harris is seeking an account of all sums received by Palace in respect of worldwide exploitation of the song's lyrics, as well as payment of any sums found due.

Alternatively he is seeking an inquiry into damages for breach of contract, and payment of up to £100,000.

Harris claims that under the 1967 agreement, Palace agreed to pay him royalties of 15 per cent of money received in respect of the song, to account to him every six months, and pay royalties 60 days later.

But he claims that at some stage Palace assigned the work to a third party and, in breach of the agreement, it has indicated that it no longer considers itself bound to make payments to him on the basis that it no longer receives money from exploitation of the song.

The writ, issued by Martin Smith of show business specialists Nicholas Morris, claims that Palace has failed to account to Harris for royalties due from 31 December 1996, 30 June 1997, and 31 December 1997, and that he is entitled to an account, or damages for breach of contract.

No date has yet been fixed for hearing of the case.