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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 10:23 GMT
Stars in line for royalties payout
Peggy Lee has led the campaign for payment
Peggy Lee has led the campaign for payment
Up to 300 music artists who recorded songs before 1962 and their heirs could share a $4.75m (3.3m) payout in a court case over unpaid royalties.

A United States judge has tentatively agreed the deal between Universal Music and the artists, led by 81-year-old singing legend Peggy Lee.

Louis Armstrong's heirs are in line to share the payout
Louis Armstrong's heirs are in line to share the payout
The stars and their heirs allege they are owed millions of dollars after the record company under-reported sales figures and over-charged them for services such as album packaging.

Among the names listed in the Los Angeles Superior Court case are Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Haley and the Comets.

Lee's lawyers claim Universal short-changed the artists by paying royalties based on incorrect prices.

The plaintiffs are stars who recorded with Decca Records before 1 January 1962.

Bill Haley and the Comets had hits in the 1950s
Bill Haley and the Comets had hits in the 1950s
Their contracts transferred to Universal, owned by media giant Vivendi Universal, through a series of company mergers and acquisitions.

Many of the artists signed contract amendments in the 1980s for the sale of CDs as the format took off, but the court papers say Universal did not keep to the terms of those agreements.

Court papers also say the record company under-paid royalties on record club sales and charged artists too much for album packaging and other services.

Judge Victoria Gerrard Chaney gave preliminary approval of the settlement on Monday. A hearing in early May should finalise it.

Potential plaintiffs have until 8 March to join the action.

Questionable practices

Other stars and their heirs, such as country singer Loretta Lynn and the families of the late Bing Crosby and Buddy Holly are pursuing individual cases against the record company.

The heirs of Bing Crosby have also launched their own legal action against Universal, seeking $16m (11.2m).

Other artists, including Courtney Love and Don Henley, have filed lawsuits alleging similar questionable accounting practices.

Peggy Lee was awarded $2.3m (1.6m) back royalties in 1991 for video sales of Disney's 1955 film The Lady and the Tramp, which featured her songs.

She has been in ill-health after suffering a stroke in 1998.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Music
Crosby heirs sue over royalties
22 Oct 01 | Music
Senator backs musicians' fight
29 Aug 01 | Music
Dixie Chicks sue Sony for $4m
20 Jul 99 | Entertainment
New health scare for legend Peggy
03 Nov 98 | Americas
Peggy Lee suffers stroke
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