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French court rules Ravel was sole author of Bolero in financial blow to his descendants

Bolero debuted at the Paris Opera in 1928
Bolero debuted at the Paris Opera in 1928 Copyright Free image
Copyright Free image
By Euronews with AFP
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The court rejected claims that the iconic musical work was a collaboration with Russian set designer Alexandre Benois, in a case that could have seen 'Bolero' taken out of the public domain.


A court in Nanterre, just outside Paris, has ruled that 'Bolero' – among the world’s best-known works of classical music – was written by French composer Maurice Ravel alone.

The case was brought before the court when heirs of celebrated Russian stage designer Alexandre Benois, who worked on the original performance of the piece, argued he should have been credited as a co-author and demanded a share of the proceeds. 

'Bolero' debuted at the Paris Opera in 1928, becoming something of an instant sensation.

Ravel died at the end of 1937, with his heirs cashing in millions of dollars until the copyright on the work expired in 2016 and the piece entered the public domain.

In France, copyright runs for 70 years after a composer's death, though some extra years were added to make up for any losses during the Second World War.

Had the heirs of Benois succeeded, 'Bolero' would have been taken out of the public domain and back under copyright until 2039.

Ravel's estate supported the claim that it was a "collaborative work" with the Russian set-dresser – presumably not least because a win for Benois’ heirs would mean receiving copyright payments once again.

The court, however, sided with France's Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers, which contended that the claim of co-authorship was baseless – a "historical fiction" – and highlighted an official declaration signed by Ravel in 1929 identifying him as the sole author.

'Bolero', the court stated, "consequently remains in the public domain".

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