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Billie Jean musician's widow to get UK royalty payments

Published 29/01/2016

The widow of a violinist on Michael Jackson's 1980s hit Billie Jean will receive royalty payments
The widow of a violinist on Michael Jackson's 1980s hit Billie Jean will receive royalty payments

The widow of a British violinist who played on Michael Jackson's hit Billie Jean is to receive UK royalty payments.

Reginald Hill, who died in 1992, was principal second violinist for the London Symphony Orchestra before moving to Los Angeles.

He played on the string section during Billie Jean recording sessions in America in 1982.

The track, which featured on Jackson's blockbusting album Thriller, was one of the world's biggest selling singles in 1983.

In 1996, new copyright regulations gave performers a legal right to broadcast income for the first time.

His widow Elizabeth said she was unaware many of his contributions had not been credited with UK royalties bodies.

"It first came to my attention when Michael Jackson died. I realised they are going to be playing this stuff a lot. I know Reg did a lot," she told the BBC.

She contacted performance rights organisation Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in 2011 but said the claims were later "rejected out of hand".

PPL said there was no specific claim for Mr Hill as a Billie Jean performer before December 2014.

In 2015, Mrs Hill gave PPL the original recording contract between Jackson's record company and her late husband's union.

It showed he was paid 158 dollars (£110) for the Billie Jean recording session.

PPL said it was "likely" Mr Hill "did appear on the final mix of Billie Jean" and he was added to the performer line-up in December 2015.

Mr Hill has now also been added to the performer line-up for a number of recordings by artists including Earth, Wind and Fire and Julio Iglesias.

Mrs Hill was not happy about the handling of her late husband's work.

"It's a system that's just too hard to fight," she said. "You shouldn't have to fight. They should be working for us not against us and it feels like we're fighting them every inch of the way."

PPL said it received "conflicting evidence" about Mr Hill's contribution, but added the issue was resolved within a year.

Professor Ian Hargreaves, who carried out a government review of intellectual property, said: "It's vital that markets work well, are regulated fairly and clearly and that appeal can be made against wrong decisions."

PPL said it paid more than 5,000 record companies and 63,000 performers last year.

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