Roger Miller has been dead since 1992, but he's still earning more than $120,000 a year.
That eye-opening fact emerged last week when U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes Jr. ruled that Sony/ATV Publishing owes the late singer's widow and publishing company some $900,000 in royalties for the use of his songs between 2002 and mid-2009. The ruling is available at this link.
The court had previously found that Miller's heirs, not Sony, own the copyrights to all songs he published from 1964, the year of his debut album, until his death. It also determined that Sony, as the successor of Nashville's Tree Publishing Co., is the rightful owner of Miller's catalog from the years 1958 through 1963, when he was a staff songwriter at Tree.
Mary Miller, widow of the country crooner, filed suit in December 2004 against Sony, accusing it of copyright infringement. Roger Miller Music Inc. was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. In the ensuing years, the case made its way to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and then back to Haynes' court.
Last year, Haynes appointed Nashville entertainment-industry accountant Charles Sussman as special master in the case, empowered to decide how much Sony owed for infringing the copyrights of Miller's songs. The pleadings that both sides filed to argue over the correct amount were placed under seal by the court, but last week's ruling provides some indication of the earning power Miller still commands more than 17 years after his death.
Apparently the publisher's share of Miller's royalties came to even more than the $900,000 awarded to his widow. Judge Haynes refused to include foreign earnings in the award, while not specifying how much money the songs had generated internationally.
Efforts this afternoon to reach attorney Bob Sullivan of the local office of Loeb & Loeb LLP, who represents Sony, have been unsuccessful.
John Griffin and Frank Wilbert of the downtown firm Kay, Griffin, Enkema & Brothers represent Mary Miller and Roger Miller Music.