On June 1st 2017 the Higher Regional Court of Munich ruled that Elvis Presley’s heirs are not entitled to any additional payments for the exploitation of the songs by the US-musician in Germany. Elvis Presley Enterprises, an entity of which Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley holds 15 % of the shares, had sued the label Arista Music for a share of the profits the label generates with the songs of the artist in Germany.
The “King of Rock’n’Roll” had sold the rights to his songs to his music label RCA Records, now Arista Music and part of Sony, for 5.4 million US dollars in 1973. The buyout agreement included 1000 songs, among them famous hits like “Love me tender” or “Heartbreak Hotel”. The plaintiffs argued that under German copyright law the artist is entitled to additional payments in cases where the original buyout amount is obviously disproportionate to the profits generated with the artist’s performance. During the proceedings Arista Music had to disclose these profits: between 2008 and 2013 the label had generated revenue of 6.9 million US dollars in Germany alone.
However, the Higher Regional Court of Munich did not find a disproportion under German Copyright Law and thus confirmed a judgement of the Regional Court of Munich from 2015, which had already ruled that the buyout agreement was valid and Elvis Presley had been sufficiently and fully compensated for the rights in and to his songs.