A DVD highlighting Billy T James' comedic talents could be the subject of legal action, with the entertainer's widow and daughter considering a claim for a share of royalties.
The Comic Genius of Billy T James, released by Sony Music Entertainment in late 2008, has sold more than 100,000 copies, bringing in an estimated $3 million.
However, James' widow, Lynn Matthews, is challenging Sony's claim that it obtained the rights to use the material in the DVD under an agreement with the Billy T James Family Trust, the New Zealand Herald reported today.
Ms Matthews declined to comment, but the Herald understood that she claimed intellectual property rights over some of James' recordings and scripts and had assigned those rights to independent label Pagan Records to license on her behalf.
Pagan representative Tim Moon would not comment in detail, but said legal action was possible.
Sony released a statement in which it said it was "confident it can come to a commercial arrangement with Pagan Records after recently concluding an arrangement with The Billy T James Family Trust".
The trust, the sole beneficiaries of which are Ms Matthews and Cherie James, was set up after the entertainer's death in August 1991.
Trustee Mick Sinclair said the trust had "no problems with Sony", which had reached an agreement before the DVD was released, but the issue was complicated by the fact that James did not leave a will.