Foundation Penalized for Suing Ray Charles’ Kids

     (CN) – The Ray Charles Foundation must pay seven of the late singer’s children $89,000 in attorneys’ fees after a year-long legal battle over the rights to 51 songs.
     Charles had fathered 12 children before his death of liver disease in 2004. The foundation claimed that Charles told them all in 2002 that he would leave them each $500,000 trust funds “and that the children would have no further interests in his estate.”
     Beginning in March 2010, however, seven of those children began sending copyright-termination notices to music publishers, claiming that they owned the rights to songs like “I Got a Woman,” “Mary Ann” and “A Fool For You.”
     The foundation filed suit in March 2012, claiming that the Charles heirs were simply unhappy with their trust funds.
     “The self-serving attempts on the part of the defendants to deprive the foundation of its said intellectual property and contract rights not only is contrary to the express wishes of their father and in breach of the agreement they signs and promises that they made, but contrary to the best interests of those innocent parties who would be benefited by the grants made by the foundation,” the original complaint said.
     Those heirs nevertheless persuaded a federal judge in Los Angeles to toss the $3.5 million, dismissing the federal claim and striking the state-law claims under California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law.
     U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins granted the kids $89,000 in attorneys’ fees last month.
     “This was a high-profile case implicating some issues of first impression, namely, whether the filing and serving of termination notices under the Copyright Act is protected activity subject to the anti-SLAPP statute,” Collins wrote. “That undoubtedly involved extensive legal research in different areas of copyright and state law, which supports the hours expended.”
     The foundation objected to the award on the grounds that the attorneys did not keep contemporaneous records and wound up reconstructing the time they spent on the case.
     Collins conveyed her disapproval of this method but said that, “nevertheless, the court is satisfied here that the declarations submitted by defendants’ counsel are trustworthy and adequately establish the reasonableness of the hours expended.”

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