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Gap Band estates drop royalties lawsuit against BMG

By | Published on Wednesday 26 April 2023


BMG has announced that a lawsuit filed against the company by the heirs of Ronnie and Robert Wilson – two thirds of The Gap Band – has been withdrawn. The music rights firm stresses that that development is not the result of any settlement or payment on its part.

The lawsuit, filed in January, related to royalties due to the two Wilson estates from the Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars hit ‘Uptown Funk’, money from which goes to The Gap Band because of its similarities to their 1979 song ‘Oops Upside Your Head’.

In a deal negotiated by the then publisher of ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ – Minder Music – each of the five writers of the 1970s song got a 3.4% share of the ‘Uptown Funk’ copyright. Minder Music was then acquired by BMG.

In their legal filing, reps for the Wilson estates claimed that BMG was not properly reporting or paying them the ‘Uptown Music’ royalties they were due. “This case is yet another chapter in a long-running series of disputes involving the smash musical composition and sound recording ‘Uptown Funk’, originally credited to Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson”, their lawsuit stated.

“Plaintiffs have monetary interests in ‘Uptown Funk’ owing to its incorporation of the musical composition ‘Oops Upside Your Head’”, it went on. “In this instalment of the ongoing ‘Uptown Funk’ saga, defendant music publisher BMG Rights Management has failed and refused to pay plaintiffs or account to them for royalties they are obligated to pay plaintiffs pursuant to a written contract as co-writers of ‘Uptown Funk’”.

BMG denied the allegations from the off, and said in a new statement yesterday: “Among other things [the estates] alleged that BMG had ‘failed and refused’ to pay royalties and that BMG had either ‘retained all funds due to plaintiffs for its own benefit and enjoyment’ or ‘wrongfully diverted’ the money elsewhere”.

“Although the allegations were widely reported, they were without merit”, the new statement added, “as confirmed by the fact that the plaintiffs have now withdrawn their lawsuit”. It then clarified: “There was no settlement agreement and BMG has paid no money in respect of these charges. The plaintiffs will pay all their own costs”.

“BMG takes seriously its commitment to treat artists fairly and transparently and its reputation for doing so”, it went on. “Alongside their brother Charlie Wilson – who was not party to the lawsuit – the late Ronnie J Wilson and Robert Lynn Wilson of The Gap Band were among the most influential musicians of their generation. We honour their memory and are proud to represent many of their music publishing and recording rights”.

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