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Marley family loses copyright battle


The family of reggae legend Bob Marley has lost a lawsuit seeking ownership of his most famous tracks.

Executives at UMG Recordings were declared the rightful owners of copyrights to five albums that Marley recorded between 1973 and 1977 for Island Records.

The decision, which came down in Manhattan on Friday, is a defeat for Marley's widow, Rita, and nine children, who had sought to recover millions of dollars in damages over UMG's effort to "exploit" what they called "the quintessential Bob Marley sound recordings."

The albums in the haul include "Catch a Fire," "Natty Dread" and "Exodus" and were all recorded with Marley's band the Wailers.

Watch: Bob Marley

Marley died of cancer in 1981, at age 36.

The Marley family accused UMG of intentionally withholding royalties from them and ignoring a 1995 agreement assigning them rights under the original recording agreements.

UMG also was accused of failing to consult with the family on key licensing decisions, including the use of Marley's music as ringtones on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile phones, court papers show.

But U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled that Bob Marley's recordings were "works made for hire" as defined under U.S. copyright law, entitling UMG to be designated the owner of those recordings, for both the initial 28-year copyright terms and for renewals.

"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."

She said it was irrelevant that Marley might have maintained artistic control over the recording process. What mattered, she said, was that Island had a contractual "right" to accept or reject what he produced.

Cote also denied the family's request for a ruling upholding its claims over digital downloads, citing ambiguity in a 1992 royalties agreement.

She directed the parties to enter court-supervised settlement talks and scheduled an Oct. 29 conference.

Apr 28, 2012 2:14PM
This is precisely what the movie "Many Rivers To Cross" was about.  Please Marley family members, DO NOT GIVE UP.  There are many, many prayers coming your way.  Bob's Karma burned so pure and the love for him did not die when he did.  I hang my head in shame that America would bow down to Island Records.  There would be no Island Records if not for Bob Marley.  I have observed over the last 20 years that anyone who sings or asks for One World, One Love is in danger in this country now.  The record labels are completely enamored with "Gangsta Rap" and the dirty money it brings. Do not lose your faith.  Bob did something that not even John Lennon could do....he opened a world of love for your fellow man in a way that was heard the world over.  THAT is what he stood for. THAT was His dream.  Everything we do cycles back to us.  Island will get their money, but it will eventually wither on the vine.  Then will be the time for the Marleys to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.  ONE LOVE!!! 
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