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March 5, 2004

Two original members of Martha & the Vandellas, the hit 1960s singing group, lost a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a company and law firm that helped them win royalty payments from Motown records. "The court finds that the contract is not ambiguous," U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland said in a 26-page decision in a suit filed by Rosalind Ashford Holmes and Annette Beard Sterling of Detroit.

Cleland said the singers signed a contract with Artists Rights Enforcement Corp. (AREC) and its president, Charles Rubin, in the mid-1980s to make Motown records start paying royalties. The women, who sang such hits as "Heat Wave" and "Dancing in the Street," said they had never received royalties from Motown.

Under the contract, the singers agreed that AREC would keep half of any royalties it recovered, Cleland said. He said AREC hired attorney Ira Greenberg and the now-defunct Summit Rovins and Feldesman law firm to sue Motown in the 1980s and 1990s. It has received nearly $400,000 in royalties and given half to the singers. Martha Reeves was not a party to the suit.

The singers said the contract was misleading and wanted Cleland to order the defendants to repay royalties collected since the lawsuit was filed in 2003 and have all future royalties paid directly to them or their heirs. The singers' lawyer, Gregory J. Reed of Detroit, said the singers may appeal. He said Cleland's decision didn't address that the contract was an at-will agreement and that Rubin and Greenberg admitted in depositions that it had been terminated.

Posted by acapnews at March 5, 2004 8:42 AM

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