The House of Lords has ruled that Matthew Fisher, who wrote the organ solo introduction to the 1960s song "Whiter Shade of Pale", is entitled to 40% of the royalties from the song. Mr Fisher's entitlement only relates to future royalties from the song, and does not affect royalties which were paid to Mr Fisher's co-writers prior to the ruling.
This decision overturns the Court of Appeal's ruling that Mr Fisher had relinquished his rights in the song’s copyright due to the number of years which had passed between the song's 1967 release and Mr Fisher's claim, which was brought in 2005.
The decision serves as an important reminder that the passage of time cannot itself prevent an intellectual property claim. However, depending on the circumstances of each case, it may be appropriate to prevent a much delayed claim where the claimant seeks purely equitable relief (such as an injunction), and where it can be shown that the court would be justified in refusing the relief sought. In this case, the House of Lords ruled that the benefits Mr Fisher's co-writers obtained from the delay (i.e. a greater share of royalties) outweighed any prejudice they may have suffered as a result of Mr Fisher's delay in bringing the claim.
See: Fisher v Brooker  UKHL 41