A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a lawsuit brought by Ray Charles’ charitable foundation against the singer’s adult children over the transfer of song copyrights can move forward.
The Ray Charles Foundation — the sole beneficiary of the late entertainer’s estate — sued seven of Charles’ heirs in Los Angeles federal court in 2012, accusing them of violating a deal with their father not to claim any rights to his estate after he died in 2004.
A judge threw out the case in 2013, finding the foundation lacked standing to pursue its claims.
In its reversal of that ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena revived the lawsuit and ordered further proceedings.
“When music legend Ray Charles died, he left behind remarkable legacies in music and philanthropy,” Judge Morgan Christen wrote in the appellate opinion. “This appeal arises from the intersection of the two.”
The foundation alleges Charles’ children sent copyright termination notices to music publishers claiming they owned the songs, which the foundation contends it owns.
Among the dozens of compositions at issue are rights to Charles’ 1954 breakout hit, “I Got a Woman” and chart toppers “What’d I Say,” “A Fool for You” and “Mary Ann.”
Royalties from the songs were used to fund the foundation, which provides research and scholarship grants for the benefit of deaf, blind and underprivileged youths, according to the suit.
At the time of his death, Charles had 12 adult children.
In 2002, the singer informed all of his heirs that he would establish irrevocable trusts of $500,000 for each of them if they agreed to waive further claims to his estate, according to the complaint, which stated that each of the children signed the contract.
— City News Service