Bob Marley Family Loses Copyright Fight Against Universal
Sep 14, 2010 - By Jeffrey Hyatt
Bob Marley’s family have lost their copyright battle with Universal Music Group (UMG) over the ownership of five of the late reggae icon’s most celebrated albums.
NME reports that a federal judge in New York has ruled that copyrights to Catch A Fire, Burnin’, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibrations and Exodus, each recorded with his band The Wailers between 1973 and 1977 for Island Records, entitled UMG to be designated the owner of those recordings.
Marley’s wife, Rita, and children had charged UMG with intentionally withholding royalties from their Fifty-Six Hope Road Music company and disregarding a 1995 agreement assigning them rights under the original recording agreements, court papers show. The Marley family were seeking millions in damages over UMG’s alleged attempts to “exploit” his recordings.
On top of that, the lawsuit charged UMG of failing to discuss with the Marley family on notable licensing decisions, including the use of Marley’s music as “ringtones” on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile phones.
In the end, Judge Denise Cote said Marley’s recordings were “works made for hire” as defined under US copyright law, reports BBC News.
“Each of the agreements provided that the sound recordings were the ‘absolute property’ of Island,” Cote wrote.
“Whether Marley would have recorded his music even if he had not entered the recording agreements with Island is beside the point.”
The five albums at the heart of the copyright case include some of Marley’s best-known tunes, including “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Kinky Reggae,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Concrete Jungle” and “One Love.”
Cote also denied the Marley family’s request for a ruling upholding its claims over digital downloads, citing ambiguity in a 1992 royalties agreement.
Marley died of cancer in 1981 at age 36
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