£1 million legal bill rocks Hyperion

'One of the best-loved institutions in the world of classical music is threatened following a legal ruling which may have far-reaching implications for the ownership of recordings of masterpieces. Hyperion record company is facing potentially devastating bills of £950,000 after losing a case focusing on the entitlement to copyright and royalties.

The battle centred on an acclaimed recording of the French baroque composer Michel-Richard de Lalande for the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. For the recording an expert on Lalande, Lionel Sawkins, was commissioned to edit the scores. Dr Sawkins regarded his endeavour as amounting to a new musical work, entitling him to copyright and royalties.

After suing, he won at the high court, and again at the court of appeal. Hyperion last week settled costs with Carter Ruck, the firm which represented Dr Sawkins, after receiving an invoice for £758,000. The final settlement left Hyperion with a total bill of £950,000, which included their own costs and damages to Dr Sawkins - close to what Hyperion would spend on music-making over an entire year. Carter Ruck described the ruling as "likely to have far-reaching implications for the music industry". Dr Sawkins told the Guardian he had tried to settle with Hyperion and that the legal defeat was a self-inflicted wound. Simon Perry, managing director of Hyperion, said: "What has happened is the equivalent of finding a new Shakespeare play with spelling mistakes and other minor errors. If you correct those mistakes, would that make it a new play, not by Shakespeare?"

From today's Guardian, follow this link for the full story.

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