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Ray Charles Foundation Loses Case
Ray Charles’ children have won their case against the Ray Charles Foundation to reclaim copyrights on approximately 60 of Charles’ classic songs. The ruling represents a major financial loss to the charitable foundation, to which the singer left all rights to his works.

Songs such as ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘A Fool For You’, ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ and ‘Mary Ann’ are now back in the hands of the 7 out of his 12 children who began court proceedings. Following the singer’s death in 2004, Charles gave each child $500,000 on the proviso that they would not make any further claims against his estate.

However, in 2010 the children cancelled a copyright grant to Warner/Chappell Music in order to reclaim ownership of the works. Warner/Chappell has not challenged the validity of the termination notices, but the Ray Charles Foundation did, as it reaps royalties from the copyrighted music.

The judge presiding over the case declared that the Foundation didn’t have standing to challenge the siblings’ cancellation of the copyright grant, stating: "The Foundation is not a grantee of the rights to be terminated or its successor. Congress did not even require the statutory heirs provide it with statutory notice of the termination, let alone give it a seat at the table during the termination process." She also noted that although the children agreed not to make a claim against Charles’ estate, the court proceedings were legal because “Ray Charles’ estate went through probate and was closed in 2006, before the termination notices were sent out.”

The Ray Charles Foundation plans to appeal the U.S. District Court's decisio and released this statement: “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," states Ray Charles Foundation president Valerie Ervin. "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. The law is very unsettled in these matters and we intend to seek resolution through the courts. Meanwhile, The Foundation will continue its substantial charitable works as intended by Mr. Charles. Ray Charles never let anything stand in the way of his work and The Foundation continues with his legacy.”

Published: 19 February 2013
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