Wednesday 21 August 2019

Decision upheld in appeal over rights to Bob Marley songs

The dispute centres around songs written by Bob Marley
The dispute centres around songs written by Bob Marley

A music company has lost the latest round of a legal fight with a rival over the rights to 13 Bob Marley songs.

The Jamaica reggae star, who died in 1981, had written the songs in the 1970s but pretended that the authors were ''various friends and associates'', judges have heard.

And the two companies - Cayman Music and Blue Mountain Music - have fought over who owned copyrights.

One song involved in the dispute is No Woman, No Cry - one of Marley's most famous works.

A judge had ruled against Cayman after a High Court trial in June 2014 - and today three appeal judges dismissed an appeal.

Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, who had analysed the dispute at a Court of Appeal hearing in London in October, concluded that Deputy High Court Judge Richard Meade "came to the right conclusion".

The dispute centred on the ''construction'' of an agreement made in 1992 under which copyrights in ''various musical works'' were transferred by Cayman.

Lawyers for Cayman claimed that the 13 songs - Crazy Baldhead; Johnny Was; Natty Dread; No Woman, No Cry; Positive Vibration; Rat Race; Rebel Music (Road Block); Talking Blues; Them Belly Full; Want More; War; Who The Cap Fit and So Jah She - were not transferred under that agreement.

Blue Mountain, which is responsible for administering rights transferred under that agreement, disputed the claim.

Judge Meade had heard how Marley had agreed a publishing deal with Cayman in late 1973.

The 13 songs were written by Marley between October 1973 and October 1976, he was told.

Marley had ''fraudulently'' attributed the songs to other people so as to avoid the provisions of the 1973 publishing agreement, lawyers said.

Lawyers for Blue Mountain said on the ''straightforward application of ordinary principles of contract law'' the claim had to be dismissed.

They accepted that Marley had ''falsely claimed'' that the 13 songs had been composed by other people in an attempt to ''escape the automatic assignment of their copy right to Cayman''.

But they said it was ''common ground'' that as a matter of law the ''ruse was ineffective''.

They said the ''plain intention'' of the 1992 agreement was to ''transfer all rights''.

And Judge Meade ruled that Cayman had no rights to the songs because copyrights had ''passed'' under the 1992 agreement.

PA Media

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