Cuban publisher in legal battle over copyright

The latest U.S.-Cuba tensions aren’t playing out in the U.N. but in London’s High Court, where a dispute over copyrights to music played by the Buena Vista Social Club is sounding new notes of discord.

The septuagenarian band shot to worldwide fame when its members reprised their pre-revolution sound on Ry Cooder‘s bestselling album and in Wim Wenders‘ 1999 docu.

Cuban publisher Editora Musical de Cuba (EMC) is bidding to invalidate U.S. music company Peer Intl.’s ownership of the copyrights, claiming Peer exploited the original Cuban songwriters — all now dead — by giving them “at most a few pesos and maybe a drink or rum” for their work.

EMC, which some claim to be linked to the Cuban ministry of the interior, asserts that the “cunningly contrived” original contracts should be voided on the grounds that the “unconscionable bargains” cannot be recognized in law.

Presiding over the legal slanging match is judge John Edmund Frederic Lindsay, who is clearly near the end of his tether.

Frustrated by a faulty videolink system used to hear testimony from 12 Cuban witnesses who are too elderly to travel, it seems the 69-year-old judge has decided he deserves a holiday.

“It is expedient that there should be examinations by a special examiner in Cuba and that I should be that special examiner,” he said last week.

So Lindsay will fly to Cuba in September to hear their testimony.

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