Keyboardist Nick Rhodes added: “We signed a publishing agreement as unsuspecting teenagers, over three decades ago, when just starting out and when we knew no better.”Now we are told that language in that agreement allows our long-time publishers, SonyATV, to override our statutory rights under US law.”We are shocked that English contract law is being used to overturn artists’ rights in another territory. If left untested, this judgment sets a very bad precedent for all songwriters of our era and so we are deciding how properly to proceed.”Under UK law publishers can exploit the copyright until 70 years after the artist’s death.The band is seeking to challenge the ruling and could now take the case to the Court of Appeal.The ruling is being seen as a test case as it could affect many other UK songwriters who may want to end long-standing contracts which allow a music publishing company to exploit their work.Mr Justice Arnold, sitting in London, said the arguments on English contract law and how it affected the agreements was “finely balanced” but in the end “not without hesitation, I have come to the conclusion that the (Gloucester Place) interpretation of the agreements is the correct one”.In a previous hearing, Ian Mill QC, appearing for Gloucester Place, had told the court: “My clients entered into contracts and agreed to pay these artistes sums of money by way of royalties in return for which the artistes promised to give them rights to exploit, subject to the payment of those sums, for the full term of copyright.”Mr Mill argued that, by seeking to exercise their reversion rights, the group members were breaching their contracts under English law because they had agreed “that they will not seek to obtain a reversion”.Under the ruling the band will have to withdraw its application in the US to have its copyright reverted.A spokesperson for Sony/ATV said:“We are gratified by the court’s decision to interpret this matter in the way we believe is consistent with the intention of the contracts when they were entered into. “EMI has nothing but the highest respect and admiration for Duran Duran and their great songs. This has not been about seeking to challenge the US laws on copyright terminations but simply a contractual issue in the jurisdiction of the UK courts to clarify the parties’ rights on various songs.”British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors CEO, Vick Bain added: “We are very disappointed to hear of the outcome of this ruling. Justice Arnold has stated his decision was “not without hesitation” so we hope this ruling is challenged and that Duran Duran will consider an appeal. “The law in the US is very clear; songwriters have an opportunity to claim back their copyrights after 35 years and a number of British songwriters with US deals have been able to do so successfully over the past few years. They have then been able to re-negotiate fairer terms for their catalogues than were offered to them in the late 1970s and early 80s at the start of their careers. It seems clear to us that US laws should cover all copyrights in that territory no matter the nationality of the writers.” Pop group Duran Duran is seeking to challenge a “shock” high court ruling over the copyright of some of their hit songs to help stop other UK artists missing out on millions.The musicians had sought to reclaim the copyright to some of their hits, including Rio and A View To A Kill, by using US copyright law which reverts the rights of ownership back to artists after 35 years.But a judge at the high court has ruled that contracts made under English law can prevent them from doing so and ruled in favour of their publishers Gloucester Place Music, owned by US business Sony/ATV.It means that whilst artists Billy Joel and Blondie have been handed their copyrights back in the US, UK groups might be stopped from doing so by the contracts they originally signed.Now singer Simon Le Bon and his fellow group members are seeking to challenge the decision in bid to help other UK artists.Following the ruling, he said: “SonyATV’s conduct has left a bitter taste with us for sure, and I know that other artists in similar positions will be as outraged and saddened as we are. We are hopeful this judgment will not be allowed to stand.”We issued termination notices for our copyrights in the US believing it simply a formality. After all, it’s the law in America.”SonyATV has earned a tremendous amount of money from us over the years. [This] feels like the ugly and old-fashioned face of imperialist, corporate greed. I thought the acceptability of this type of treatment of artists was long gone – but it seems I was wrong.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
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