Former Procul [sic] Harum keyboardist Matthew Fisher's royalty claim for the ubiquitous classic-rock warhorse Whiter Shade of Pale has been definitively denied in court, mostly on account of the fact that he waited some four decades to make his request for 40 percent of the 1967 release's royalties. Fisher claims that he shied away from litigation at first because he didn't want to lose his seat on the hitmaking group's organ bench, which prompts us to wonder what prevented him from getting litigious in the years between his 1969 departure from the group and his return for their 1991 reunion. Perhaps he was afraid of becoming the subject of a veiled attack in song by PH lyricist, Keith Reid, the man responsible for Whiter Shade's sub-Dylan gobbledygook about "16 vestal virgins who were leaving for the coast?"
In any case, the court seemed strikingly less concerned about the fact that Fisher in fact lifted his alleged contribution to the tune – the organ melody line – wholesale from Bach's Air on the G String. Maybe they thought the latter was about blowing on a stripper's "uniform," and became distracted by some prurient reverie.
So, what lesson can we take away from all this? Just that it's use-it-or-lose-it in the realm of copyright lawsuits. Therefore, it may be time to suggest that the following artists get on the stick or risk passing their legal expiration date.
More about the AWSoP lawsuit