Since the death of the singer/ songwriter of Nina Simone in 2003, an endless battle has been raging over the rights to her music. Sony Music is aiming to rescind an agreement over Simone’s music on the basis that they have some certain rights to her master recordings.
One of the key people in the fight over Simone’s music was her ex husband, Andrew Stroud. He had been claiming that upon his divorce with Simone, he was given some ownership of her music. Unfortunately, Stroud died in 2012 without successfully settling these issues.
Steven Ames Brown, an attorney that represented Simone in the 80s and 90s, has also been part of this long lasting battle. Over the years he has won many cases on Simone’s behalf. Additionally, he was able to redirect Stroud’s royalty payments after his unfortunate death. There has been many lawsuits over royalties, and last October, Sony Music and the Simone estate attempted to settle all disputes related to the singer’s music before a magistrate judge. This hearing resulted in an agreement. Until now, Sony has been very careful about keeping the results private, as it could present a “significant danger.” Under the agreement, Sony would pay pay Brown a large sum of money and change the royalty rates for Simone’s recording in exchange for various rights over her recordings. However, things did not turn out so smoothly.
Sony claims that after they paid Brown the agreed amount of money, the other parties did not follow through with their agreements. Sony and Brown are also disputing which works Sony will have rights over. Instead of taking the issue back to court, the parties mutually decided to handle it themselves.
The matter of rights over the physical versions of Simone’s recordings are being disputed as well. Brown and the estate claim that they never made any agreements over rights of the physical recordings, only reproduction rights. Sony responds by saying, “Sony Music literally cannot exploit the masters and pay Brown and the Estate royalties if the only rights it owns are the rights or reproduction.” Currently, Sony is looking to rescind the agreement and sue Brown and the Estate. They hope to finally determine who owns the recordings of the legendary Nina Simone.
FDRMX Eyes: Xavier Boscher is a well-traveled musician who sings both in French and English. Check out his video: “The Origin of My Well-Being.”