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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 12:48 GMT
Court rules in Bing royalties row
Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby died in 1977 at the age of 73
Documents belonging to business associates of the late entertainer Bing Crosby can be released in a dispute over royalties, a court has ruled.

The legendary singer, who died in 1977, is at the centre of a battle over royalties to his best-known songs, including White Christmas.

The court ruled that communications about relevant contracts are no longer protected by client-attorney privilege.

A lawyer for the record company being sued by Crosby's heirs for $16m (8.48m) said the documents could prove key in resolving the dispute.

Business manager

In 2000, Crosby's heirs sued MCA Records, a unit of Universal Music, and others, alleging they had not paid royalties due from contracts dating back to 1943, 1949 and 1956.

As part of that legal action, MCA wanted access to 59 documents relating to those contracts.

The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that any privilege to suppress this information ended once Crosby's heirs inherited his assets.

"When Crosby died, his privilege transferred to the executor of his estate and thereafter ceased to exist upon the executor's discharge," the court wrote.

Steve Kang, a lawyer representing MCA, said: "The documents were communications between not so much Bing Crosby himself but between his business manager Basil Grillo and also Crosby's accountants.

"They concerned an audit that Bing Crosby was doing in the late 1950s and actually we're convinced that the issues they discussed in the audit and resolved are the same issues that the plaintiffs are raising today."

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