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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Stars share royalties victory
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee led the campaign for payment
More than 150 veteran music stars and their heirs will share a $4.75m (3.1m) payout after a judge ruled that a deal on decades of unpaid royalties was fair.

The campaign to be paid by music giant Universal had been led by jazz legend Peggy Lee, who died in January.

Louis Armstrong's heirs are in line to share the payout
Louis Armstrong's heirs are in line to share the payout
The families of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Haley and the Comets are also in line for a slice of the money.

The deal comes despite the objections of former Dallas star Larry Hagman, whose singer and actress mother Mary Martin was one of those owed royalties. He said the settlement was not good enough.

The 161 stars and their heirs alleged they were owed millions of dollars after the record company under-reported sales figures and over-charged them for services such as album packaging.

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

A lawyer representing Lee's estate, Cyrus Godfrey, said 90% of the artists were now dead, and it was time to settle the case for the survivors.

Bill Haley and the Comets had hits in the 1950s
Bill Haley and the Comets had hits in the 1950s
The deal was a watershed for the music industry because it showed that even retired or deceased artists could not be ignored by record labels, Mr Godfrey said.

He also said Hagman should realise that the settlement was "in the best interests of the class members".

But Hagman had said the payout was too low "to compensate what has been done to so many outstanding artists in American history".

He now has 30 days to decide whether to opt out of the deal and pursue an individual case.

The plaintiffs all recorded with Decca Records before 1 January 1962.

Their contracts transferred to Universal, owned by media giant Vivendi Universal, through a series of company mergers and acquisitions.

Under-paid

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

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

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.

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