Today may prove to be 'A Darker Shade of Black' for creativity in the music industry. No longer will songwriters, bands, and musicians be able to go into a studio to give of their best in a recording without the spectre of one of them, at any future point, claiming a share of the publishing copyright.
In awarding a share of the copyright in A Whiter Shade of Pale to Matthew Fisher today Mr Justice Blackburne has dismissed the fact that Fisher's silence of nearly 40 years, whether from lack of courage or conviction in his claim, or from waiting for lawyers to agree to a 'no win – no pay' deal, has made his claim difficult to defend. Many crucial witnesses for our defence have passed away or cannot remember 1967.
The song, written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker, was legally assigned and a demo supplied to the publishers Onward Music in March 1967 before Mr Fisher ever heard of Procol Harum. This bore little weight with the judge – in fact the only evidence that did was Mr Fisher' s unsupported statement.
Justice Blackburne also gave little credit to the evidence of the expert musicologist, or Mr Brooker's in-court demonstration of the Song without organ, preferring his own and Mr Fisher's bar-by-bar analysis.
Mr. Brooker said, after the judgement, "It's hard to believe that I've worked with somebody on and off since 1967 whilst they hid such unspoken resentment. I'm relieved that the trial is over but my faith in British justice is shattered. Musicians get record royalties whether their input is creative or not – that's the deal. If Matthew Fisher's name ends up on my song then mine can come off! I have to respect and acknowledge the people I write songs with."
After all this time this case should never have got to court – Johann Sebastian Bach deserves the credit for his inspiration to all musicians.
Gary Brooker MBE
Gary adds as a
postcript, 1510 GMT
The judge has granted a stay of execution, pending appeal.
More about the AWSoP lawsuit