Ray Charles Foundation to appeal decision on song copyrights

Org contesting children's claims to material in wake of trust agreements

The Ray Charles Foundation said that it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that threw out its claims against children of the late performer, as they are recapturing the copyrights to dozens of his most popular compositions.

Warner/Chappell Music has paid royalties to the foundation for the use of the songs, but seven of Charles’ 12 children have been reclaiming the copyrights to the music under a provision of the Copyright Act that grants authors and their heirs the ability to recover ownership of works some 56 years after they were originally published.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins threw out the foundation’s suit, which claimed that the children violated agreements they made with Charles in which they would each receive a $500,000 trust but not contend the estate. Collins said the children’s filing of copyright-termination notices did not violate the terms of their agreements with their father. Charles died in 2004, and left the rights he held to his works to the foundation.

But Valerie Ervin, president of the foundation, said in a statement that “the very clear and unmistakable intention of both Ray Charles and all his children was that, in exchange for a substantial payment, the children were not to raise any claims against their father’s estate. The children who filed these termination notices violated the sacred promise they made. They took their father’s money and now come back for more.”

Ervin added that the “law is very unsettled in these matters and we intend to seek resolution through the courts.”

Collins also said that the foundation could not challenge the termination notices, as they were not assigned the copyrights to the music. Warner/Chappell was, and they have not challenged the notices that have been issued.