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Marley estate settles royalties dispute with Universal

By | Published on Monday 9 January 2012

Bob Marley

The Bob Marley estate has settled an ongoing legal dispute with Universal Music over the late reggae legend’s Island Records catalogue.

As previously reported, Marley’s widow and nine of his children put their name to a 2008 lawsuit relating to five of the musician’s albums, in which they accused Universal, as owners of Island Records, of underpaying royalties for the last ten years. The litigation also questioned Universal’s ownership of the sound recording rights in the records.

On the latter point, a judge ruled in September 2010 in favour of Universal, reaffirming the major’s ownership of the disputed records. But the royalties element of the dispute has rumbled on ever since, even though a judge encouraged both sides to try out of court mediation.

Much of the Marley estate’s royalties dispute centred on what share the family should receive of digital revenues, which is, of course, a wider issue in the US record industry at the moment, with Rob Zombie, Chuck D and the estate of Rick Spring all claiming Universal has deliberately misinterpreted pre-internet record contracts in order to pay them a lower cut of digital revenues than they believe they are due. Though in the Marley case there was seemingly some conflicting contract terms which added to the confusion regards what royalties should be paid on digital income.

But either way, both sides have now reached a deal and a US federal judge in New York accepted that agreement and dismissed the Marley estate’s lawsuit last week. Said judge, Katherine Forrest, was probably particularly pleased that an out of court settlement had been reached. She’s relatively new to the judging lark, and was given the Marley v Universal case at random last November, but, according to the Hollywood Reporter, she faced accusations of bias from the Marley family because of her previous work as an intellectual property lawyer, including working on the LimeWire litigation for, among others, Universal Music.