Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 17:46 UK

Victory for Whiter Shade organist

Matthew Fisher
Matthew Fisher had been accused of 'excessive delay' in bringing the case

Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher has won his long battle to be recognised as co-writer of the band's hit Whiter Shade of Pale.

Law Lords have ruled that Mr Fisher, who claimed he wrote the song's haunting organ melody, is entitled to a share of future royalties.

In 2006, the High Court ruled he was entitled to 40% of the copyright.

But the Court Of Appeal overturned the ruling last year saying he waited too long - 38 years - to bring the case.

As a result, the copyright returned to Procol Harum frontman Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.

This was about making sure everyone knew about my part in the authorship. A win without money was never going to be recognised as a win at all
Matthew Fisher

On Thursday, the panel of five Law Lords delivered their unanimous ruling which reinstated the 2006 High Court verdict.

The Law Lords said the delay in bringing the case had not caused any harm to the other writers who had, in fact, benefited financially from it.

Lord Hope added that there were no time limits under English law in copyright claims.

Mr Fisher, who watched the judgement being delivered from the public Strangers Gallery, said the case "was never about money".

"There will not be a lot of that anyway," he added.

"But this was about making sure everyone knew about my part in the authorship.

"A win without money was never going to be recognised as a win at all."

His barrister, Hugh Cuddigan, said the result "should reassure composers that their rights will be acknowledged and upheld by our courts."

As one of those people who do remember the 60s, I am glad that the author of that memorable organ part has at last achieved the recognition he deserves
Law Lord Baroness Hale

In his contribution to the ruling, Lord Neuberger said Fisher had repeatedly asked if he could have a share in the rights to the record but was "rebuffed or ignored" by Mr Brooker and Mr Reid.

"He explained that he had not wanted to push his claim as he feared that, if he did so, he would be asked to say goodbye to a career in a number one pop group," Lord Neuberger added.

Baroness Hale, meanwhile, said: "As one of those people who do remember the 60s, I am glad that the author of that memorable organ part has at last achieved the recognition he deserves."

It was the first time the Law Lords - who heard the case in April - had been asked to rule on a copyright dispute involving a song, according to lawyers.

'Inexcusable delay'

Mr Fisher's counsel, Iain Purvis QC, had told the Law Lords: "We say for all practical purposes the appeal court confiscated his share of the copyright and awarded it to the defendants."

Procol Harum
A Whiter Shade of Pale reached number five in the US

He explained that Mr Fisher - now a computer programmer who lives in Croydon, south London - had taken legal action to be recognised as the joint author and owner of one of the "most famous and popular works of the 20th century, and that he has achieved".

"But secondly, to receive the income to which he says he is entitled as the co-owner of the musical copyright," he added.

Mr Brooker's lawyer Lawrence Abramson had said that overturning the Court of Appeal's ruling would have severe implications for the music industry.

He said it would open up the prospect of countless claims from musicians who felt their contribution to a song had been overlooked in some way, regardless of past contracts.

Whiter Shade of Pale was a number one in the UK for six weeks in 1967 and reached number five in the US.



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SEE ALSO
Law Lords hear Harum song battle
22 Apr 09 |  Entertainment
Procol Harum ruling is overturned
04 Apr 08 |  Entertainment
Organist wins Procol Harum battle
20 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
Procol ex-organist 'regrets Pale'
14 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
What is the light fandango?
14 Nov 06 |  Magazine
Procol ex-organist plays in court
13 Nov 06 |  Entertainment

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