Ray Charles’ Children Sued for Seeking His Song Copyrights

The Ray Charles Foundation claims that music legend’s children are trying to violate a written agreement with their father about their inheritance

Ray Charles had Georgia on his mind. His kids, however, seem to have royalties on their mind.

Seven of the "Baby What'd I Say?" singer's children are being sued by the Ray Charles Foundation, for allegedly trying to improperly obtain the copyright on dozens of Charles' songs.

Read the full lawsuit here.

According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central California on Wednesday, Charles struck an agreement with his kids in 2002 that they would each receive $500,000 from him, in exchange for not seeking any further inheritance or money from his estate.

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However, the foundation — which is the sole beneficiary of Charles' estate, and provides funding for a number of causes, including youth programs and research into hearing impairment — claims that the late singer's kids are attempting to do a run-around the agreement by seizing the copyrights to about 50 of his compositions.

According to the foundation's suit, Charles' offspring are trying to exploit a "termination of transfer" rule in the copyright law that allows artists to temporarily reclaim the copyrights on their songs from publishers after a certain number of years, in order to negotiate a better royalty rate on their catalog if the value has increased.

Since the foundation relies on income from Charles' catalog to fund its projects, it's naturally upset about the move.

Charles died in 2004.

The foundation claims that the termination of transfer notices filed by Charles' offspring violate the intent of the copyright law and are improperly filed. The foundation claims this creates confusion as to the ownership of the songs, which potentially devalues the songs.

According to the suit, Charles' royalties were already renegotiated once, which satisfies the intent of the copyright law in question. The suit also argues that many of the songs in question might have been written as works for hire, which would mean that the songwriter might not be able to claim rights to the songs.

The foundation is asking the court to prevent the termination of transfers — the first of which is due to go into effect April 1 — and to prohibit them from entering any business dealings regarding Charles' songs. It's also asking for $500,000 from each child — the amount they received from their agreement with Charles — plus court costs, attorneys' fees and interest.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.