MANHATTAN (CN) - The Artists Rights Enforcement Corp. sued the estate of singer-songwriter Ben E. King, claiming that it - not the family - owns rights to the hit songs "Stand By Me" and "There Goes My Baby."
King died on April 30, 2015. He wrote "Stand By Me" with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1961, and it became the "fourth most-played song of the 20th century," according to BMI. Its royalties are estimated to be over $25 million.
In its federal lawsuit, Artists Rights Enforcement (AREC) says King contracted with it on July 31, 2014, to negotiate sales of rights to the two songs. It did sell them, in April 2015, to the Music Sales Group, which it calls "one of the premier music companies in the world."
In its Feb. 12 lawsuit, AREC claims that the King estate wrongfully terminated the two agreements.
It also claims that King's estate delayed litigation for six months after King's death to create a bidding war for the songs, and that the estate benefited from AREC's negotiations with potential buyers "for their own financial benefit and gain."
AREC seeks an injunction restraining the estate from dishonoring contractual obligations under the Copyright Act of 1976.
It is represented by Dorothy Weber with Shukat Arrow Hafer Weber & Herbsman.
King's estate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.