Three Ex-Members of Bay City Rollers Denied in Royalty Collection Attempt
A new appellate ruling is the latest development in a marathon dispute involving the band once heralded as the biggest group since The Beatles.
In 2007, six members of the Bay City Rollers filed a lawsuit that alleged that Arista Records had failed to pay them tens of millions of dollars in royalties for over 30 years despite reports that chart-topping songs like "Rollin'," "Once Upon a Star," "Wouldn't You Like It?" and "Dedication" had led to more than 100 million album sales.
It's now 2013, and Eric Faulkner, Duncan Faure, Alan Longmuir, Derek Longmuir, Leslie McKeown and Stuart Wood are still in court and hunting for money in a long-running case that involves both old royalty streams and newer ones from movie licensing, digital downloads and ringtones.
But this isn't about them. Not yet. It's about the group's original singer, Gordon Clark, as well as Ian Mitchell and Pat McGlynn, each of whom also spent time with the band. For whatever reason, these three were left out of the big case against Arista, and so they also sued, attempting to win a share of unpaid royalties.
But while the first, bigger group of Bay City Rollers has been skating around forever in a New York court, the second group has been ordered out of the rink. On Thursday, an appeals court affirmed a judge's decision earlier this year to dismiss their claims.
Clark, Mitchell and McGlynn attempted to sue the six plaintiffs in the other case plus Arista for declaratory relief over anticipatory breach of contract and unjust enrichment. They felt they were deserving of any rewards that would come.
The contract claim failed because of the statute of frauds, which establishes that certain agreements must be in writing under certain conditions.
The three went to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that a judge shouldn't have also dismissed their unjust enrichment claim because there wasn't that same problem concerning the necessity to put it in writing.
Unfortunately for them, they hit up against another roadblock -- time.
"A claim for unjust enrichment must be based on the value of plaintiffs’ contribution to the joint effort of the band at the time it made the relevant records, not on the income stream resulting from a revival over thirty years later," wrote an appellate judge in a ruling on Thursday. "That contribution and the failure of the defendants to pay for the value of the effort occurred well over six years ago and is barred by the statute of limitations."'
As a result, the ex-Rollers will have to watch the other Rollers from the public gallery at the courtroom. The squabble among the Rollers might have had something to do with the long delay over payment (and legal proceedings).
In 2004, an in-house lawyer at Arista sent an e-mail to a television producer that was working on a documentary entitled Who Got the Bay City Rollers' Millions?
In the e-mail, the lawyer wrote that "infighting among the various members of the Bay City Rollers has made Arista legally unable to pay royalties to the appropriate parties. Arista has always stood ready to pay royalties whenever the Rollers were able to agree among themselves as to who are the appropriate payees."
But when the larger group of Rollers eventually took Arista to court in 2007, a statute of limitations defense was raised on payments. In 2011, a judge allowed the case to move forward in a partial summary judgment victory for the band -- at least, a majority of them.