The Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that forces a Nashville music company to pay $843,000, plus interest, in royalties to singers B.J. Thomas and Gene Pitney and to the Shirelles singing group.
The court, without comment, rejected arguments that the royalties award was too large.Gusto Records Inc. and G.M.L. Inc. of Nashville, both owned by Gayron "Moe" Lytle, were sued over their use of master recordings from songs from the 1960s by Thomas, Pitney and the Shirelles.
Thomas had hit records with "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head" and "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song."
Pitney recorded, among others, "Only Love Can Break A Heart," "A Town Without Pity" and "Liberty Valance."
Shirley Owens Alston, Doris Coley Jackson, Beverly Lee and Addie Harris McFadden were students at Passaic High School in New Jersey in 1958 when they recorded their first hit record, "I Met Him on a Sunday."
Their other hits included "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Soldier Boy" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."
Vernon McFadden, the widower of Addie Harris McFadden, joined in the suit as her representative.
Gusto Records and G.M.L. conceded during a trial before a federal judge that they were obligated to pay any royalties arising during their ownership of the master recordings at issue.
But they argued that they were not responsible to pay royalties owed to Thomas and Pitney by previous owners of the master record-ings.
Master recordings are the original medium on which a music performance is captured and from which all subsequent records are made.
Gusto Records and G.M.L. also argued that they should not have to pay the customary royalties rate for foreign licenses because the disputed contracts call for a lower rate.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Higgins in Nashville ruled against the music company. He ordered that Thomas be paid $177,299.77 plus interest; Pitney $187,762.44 plus interest; and each member of the Shirelles $119,537.07 plus interest.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Higgins' ruling last July.
In the appeal acted on in this instance, the justices were told the case raises "questions of exceptional importance and significance to the recording industry."