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Linda Edell Howard and Phil Kirkpatrick won summary judgment in favor of Don Everly against heirs of Phil Everly in a high-profile declaratory judgment action involving competing copyright termination notices for three songs, one of which was the biggest hit of the Everly Brothers, “Cathy’s Clown.” 

U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger in the case Everly v. Everly, et al., Case No. 3:17-cv-01440 (Middle District of Tenn.) declared in an order dated November 6, 2018, that Don Everly owns 100 percent of the U.S. copyrights and 100 percent of the worldwide songwriter royalties to the songs “Cathy’s Clown,” “Sigh, Cry, Almost Die,” and “That’s Just Too Much.”

The Defendants had argued that Phil Everly was a purported co-author of the songs, but Judge Trauger, in a lengthy and detailed decision, declared that argument was time-barred by the statute of limitations, and their purported notices of termination filed after Phil Everly’s death were therefore invalid.

Howard stated, “I have devoted much of my 30 years of practicing law to advocate passionately for authors and their heirs in their exercise of the rights and protections granted by the Copyright Act, in particular, the termination and recapture provisions of Sections 203 and 304. This ruling provides much-needed guidance in an area of law where legal precedent is otherwise minimal.”

According to Kirkpatrick, “Copyright termination rights are extremely important in a songwriter town like Nashville, as is litigation involving termination rights issues.”

Don Everly maintained that this matter had not been a dispute between the brothers, and that Phil, during his lifetime, never publicly refuted Don’s claim of sole authorship.

Don and Phil Everly performed and recorded as The Everly Brothers, known to be one of the most influential groups in the history of popular music.