Ellington v. EMI Music, Inc.

Docket Number: 156
Judge: Sheila Abdus-Salaam
Opinion Date: October 23, 2014

Plaintiff Paul Ellington, an heir and grandson of Duke Ellington, filed this breach of contract action to recover royalties allegedly due under a royalty provision contained in a 1961 United States copyright renewal Agreement between Duke Ellington and Mills Music, Inc., now EMI Music, Inc. The Agreement assigned to a “Second Party” – defined as consisting of a group of music publishers including Mills Music – the right to renew the copyright to certain music compositions written by Duke Ellington, subject to the payment of royalties. The royalty provision of the Agreement required the Second Party to pay Duke Ellington and named members of his family a percentage of the net revenue received from a foreign publication of the musical publication. Plaintiff claimed that by using affiliated foreign subpublishers, EMI breached the Agreement by diluting Plaintiff’s share of the royalties. Supreme Court dismissed the complaint in its entirety, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the disputed terms of the Agreement were clear and unambiguous and that the Appellate Division correctly held that Plaintiff did not state a cause of action for breach of the Agreement. View “Ellington v. EMI Music, Inc.” on Justia Law