Mark E Smith: The Fall’s lyrics “hard to hear”, says judge in copyright case

The case contests ownership of the band's song, "Touch Sensitive"

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A judge ruling in a copyright dispute regarding lyrics by The Fall has admitted that Mark E Smith‘s vocal style makes it “hard to hear the words”.

Smith’s publisher Minder Music Ltd, former bandmate Julia Adamson and producer Steven Sharples were contesting ownership of the band’s 1999 track “Touch Sensitive“.

The singer and Adamson said it was a development of an earlier song of the same name, which they co-wrote and performed on the John Peel Show in 1998.

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The Guardian reports that Sharples said the album version was a rewrite and that he, as a co-writer of both new lyrics and music, was entitled to a one-third share of the royalties.

 

In her ruling and after listening to three versions of the song – the radio version, a live performance and the album recording – judge Amanda Michaels said: “Mr Smith delivers the lyrics in a manner which at some points makes it hard to hear the words.”

Michaels also deemed that the transcripts of the lyrics that Sharples provided were inaccurate. “I accept the contention that the line is not ‘And a Star Wars police vehicle Paul’s off’, but… the more comprehensible ‘And a Star Wars police vehicle pulls up’,” she added.

The judge eventually ruled that Sharples’ claim to have contributed to the writing of the lyrics was “not reliable” but that string passages in the track from Sharples were a “small but significant contribution” to its authorship. Adamson ruled that the royalties will be split three ways between Sharples, Adamson and Minder Music.

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