Producers behind 80s pop hits take fight to court

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STOCK, AITKEN and Waterman, the names behind some of the clumsiest - sorry, classiest, pop acts of the Eighties - have confirmed the music business adage "where there's hit there's a writ".

The trio went to the High Court yesterday to settle a dispute over the copyright of songs released by their clients, the Australian pop singers Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan.

Michael Stock and Matthew Aitken have fallen out withPeter Waterman over an alleged agreement that they would share all the profits from their music ventures.

Mr Stock and Mr Aitken, the songwriters and musicians of the team, parted company with Mr Waterman, whose skills were more business-oriented, in the early Nineties.

Nigel Davis QC, for Mr Stock and Mr Aitken, told Mr Justice Jonathan Parker that after the break-up, disputes arose. "This is not an unfamiliar story in this kind of business," he said.

He described both his clients as "highly talented musicians and producers" and Mr Waterman as someone who was "extremely good at spotting a musical opportunity and extremely good at developing it".

The dispute centres around the in-house record label, PAL Productions, owned by Mr Waterman. Mr Stock and Mr Aitken claim that in breach of agreement and without their knowledge or consent, Mr Waterman has sold the ownership or control of copyrights of recordings in which they still have rights. Among the disputed copyrights are songs performed by Ms Minogue, Mr Donovan and Rick Astley.

Mr Davis said their claim was "to equitable title to copyrights and sound recordings".

Mr Waterman denies there was any agreement giving them an interest in the recordings. He claims they were entitled only to payments for production activities and songwriting and that these payments were made.

The hearing continues today.