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Ray Charles was either an employee and wrote and performed music in the scope of his employment, or exercised his termination right to his songs in 1980 in settlement of a suit against his publisher, or alternatively the settlement was an assignment of the songs. Shortly before his death in 2004, he granted his 12 children irrevocable trusts of $500,000 each on the condition that they relinquish and waive any further claim to his estate, which they all did. Seven of the children now are trying to terminate the copyrights in Ray Charles’ works. The Ray Charles Foundation filed a declaratory judgment action against the seven children on the basis that there is no termination available to them, either because works-made-for-hire can’t be terminated or Ray Charles already had his one bite at the apple, or the termination rights for songs assigned in 1980 aren’t ripe yet. It’s the kind of claim that you hope can go away quickly (like on a motion to dismiss), but copyright termination is so convoluted I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t. I’m rooting for the Ray Charles Foundation, though.
Ray Charles Foundation v. Robinson, No. CV12-02725 ABC (FFNx) (C.D. Cal.) filed March 29, 2012.
HT to Aaron Silverstein.