Röyksopp musical duo land in court

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The two members of one of Norway’s most internationally known music duos, Röyksopp, were in court in Bergen on Monday to fend off claims over rights to one of the songs on their breakthrough album “Melody A.M.” from 2001. The case is unusual in Norway, where artists normally avoid court battles.

Röyksopp's Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland appearing in court on Monday. PHOTO: JOHN STRANDMO, itromso.no

Röyksopp’s Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland appearing in court on Monday. PHOTO: JOHN STRANDMO, itromso.no

This case has been brewing for years, after a former friend of one of Röyksopp’s founders started trying to extract what he thinks should be his share of rights to the song A Higher Place. Rune Lindbæk claims the song is based on one he wrote with his former friend and Röyksopp co-founder Torbjørn Brundtland. It was called Lift, which Lindbæk says he and and Brundtland created while working in a partnership called “Drum Island.”

Lindbæk seeks formal recognition of his rights to the song (opphavsrett, in Norwegian), plus compensation and future income from the song. The “Melody A.M.” album has sold more than a million copies and won several awards.

Brundtland and his co-founder of Röyksopp, Svein Berge, have flatly denied to newspapers including Dagens Næringsliv (DN) and VG that  Lindbæk is owed any rights or royalties to the song. They’re expected to continue denying Lindbæk rights in court.

“For one thing, they don’t think Lindbæk’s rights have been trampled on because A Higher Place is a completely different song than Lift,” Röyksopp’s lawyer, Harald Bjelke Jr, told NRK on Monday when the case got underway. “But they also don’t agree that Lindbæk has the rights to Lift.”

The Bergen City Court (Bergen tingrett) will consider testimony from other music professionals and listen to both songs, and both sides will present their versions of how the song Lift was created.

‘Means a lot’
Bjelke said the entire case “means a lot to them (the Röyksopp founders), because the history goes a long way back, from when they were young and promising (in Tromsø). The conflict has followed them since, and now has come up in the form of the court case. They want to clarify the case in a proper manner.”

Röyksopp was cleared over parts of the claim from Lindbæk because the statute of limitations had expired. They’ve filed a countersuit against Lindbæk in the complicated legal battle, claiming he didn’t contribute enough to Lift to be owed any rights, while Lindbæk’s lawyer called his client “a composer, performing artist and contributor to the recording of Lift.”

The short-lived  “Drum Island” project itself was dissolved in 1997 after a quarrel between Lindbæk and Brundtland. “Lindbæk is clear that the song was created and recorded before they went their separate ways,” his lawyer, Marius Øvrebø-Engemoen said.

Lindbæk told NRK during a break in the court proceedings on Monday that “we made 60-70 songs together and have sat next to each for thousands of hours and made music.” He said it was “a lie” that he hadn’t co-written Lift.

Music industry players in Norway told NRK it’s unusual for such a case to land in court because Norwegian artists either try to work out disputes over material or ignore them.

“In Norway there are lots of songs that resemble each other, but the artists as a rule don’t pursue it,” said Bård Ose, a music expert for NRK. “It may have something to do with being polite.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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