Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ray Charles' Children Say Hit the Road Jack to his Foundation

Ray CharlesAs I have previously discussed, Ray Charles' children breached a condition that was placed upon them when they accepted a $500,000 irrevocable trust. As a result, the Ray Charles Foundation brought suit against seven of Charles' children. Recently, a U.S. District Court judge found that the Foundation lacked standing to bring their claims.The 1976 revision of the Copyright Act provided authors and their heirs the right to reclaim their works after a period of years, excluding works "for hire." However, the judge did not rule on if Charles' work was considered work made for hire. According to Variety,"[the judge] wrote that 'because the foundation is not a grantee of the rights to be terminated or its successor, Congress did not even require the statutory heirs provide it with statutory notice of the termination, let alone give it a seat at the table during the termination process."' 

The judge also struck down the Foundation's breach of contract and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. However, the court stated that the children's filing of termination notices could not be brought as claims against their father's estate because they failed to file the termination notices before the probate of his estate closed in 2006. The court in this case also rejected the Foundation anti-SLAPP claim. At this time, his children have recovered several of their father's songs, including "Come Back Baby," This Little Girl of Mine," and "I've Got a Sweetie."

See Ted Johnson, Ray Charles' Children Win Copyright Dispute, Variety, Jan. 28, 2013.


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