Dispute Over Duke Ellington Royalties in Court

New York's highest court is set to hear arguments by jazz composer Duke Ellington's heirs to reinstate their lawsuit against publisher EMI seeking half the royalties from foreign sales of his music.

The 2010 suit alleges breach of the 1961 standard songwriter royalty contract the late pianist, bandleader and composer signed with Mills Music, predecessor of EMI.

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It calls for an even split of net revenue.

Ellington wrote "It Don't Mean a Thing" and other big band hits.

His heirs say EMI should stop deducting 50 percent commissions to foreign subpublishers, which it now owns, before splitting the rest with them.

A judge dismissed the suit, concluding that restriction applies only to Mills affiliates existing when the contract was signed.

The Court of Appeals' ruling is expected next month.