On Friday, Arnold J ruled against Duran Duran in a copyright contract dispute with its long-term record producers Gloucester Place Music Ltd (the Claimant). The band assigned the intellectual property in its songs to the Claimant in the 1980s, on a worldwide basis, in return for payments and royalties. The contractual documents accommodating the assignment were broad ranging and were subject to English Law and the jurisdiction of the English Courts.
US copyright law provides for a reversion of copyright, typically after 35 years. This means that an author who has assigned a work to another party can, in effect, claim it back after a set period of time.
The assignment Duran Duran entered in to with the Claimant related to intellectual property rights in all countries around the world. The Claimant sought a declaration that the assignment was valid and subject to English law and that the assignment was not subject to the reversionary rights under US law. The claim was brought after Duran Duran sought to exercise their reversion rights in the US in 2014, serving notice of the same on the Claimant. The judge found in favour of the Claimant. As a result, Duran Duran has been denied a statutory right under US law, to claim a reversion on their copyright, due to the original assignment being subject to English law and relating to global intellectual property.
Duran Duran have publicly expressed their disappointment with the decision. It is possible that the decision will be appealed to the UK Supreme Court, but at the time of writing it is not clear whether or not an appeal is likely.
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