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Smokey Robinson suing ex-wife over copyright interest

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Mar 18, 2014 | 10:26am EDT

Soul icon Smokey Robinson is suing his ex-wife Claudette Rogers Robinson to prevent her from profiting from songs he wrote during their 27-year marriage. The veteran singer is reclaiming the rights to tracks penned before 1978 from bosses at Jobete Music Co. under the copyright termination law, which allows musicians to recover control of their tunes after 35 years. However, he wants a judge to make it clear that his former The Miracles bandmate Rogers Robinson, who he divorced in 1986, will not be entitled to 50 per cent of any future income the tracks generate, after she demanded half of all interest, royalties and advances from the songs in question, citing California's community property law. The legendary musician insists his ex's claims are "incorrect" and is seeking a declaratory judgement to terminate and "recapture" the copyrights to tunes he wrote and co-wrote for The Miracles and The Temptations, such as My Girl, Tears of a Clown, You've Really Got a Hold on Me and Get Ready, as well as hits he helped create for other Motown artists early on in his career, like Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells and Brenda Holloway. In legal papers filed in Federal Court in California, the 74 year old's lawyers write, "Defendant did not write any part of the musical compositions at issue. Plaintiff wrote them during the parties' marriage, which ended in 1986... "(The) 1976 Copyright Act expressly provides that these 'recaptured' copyrights belong to the author alone, which is plaintiff. Moreover, the 1976 Copyright Act precludes any transfer of those copyrights before the terminations themselves are effective. Thus, any transfer of such rights to any third party, whether defendant or a music publisher, was barred by the 1976 Copyright Act, and is therefore null and void." Robinson, who has two children with his first wife, wed his current spouse, Frances, in 2004.

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