Grade A Certified

Bob Marley Gets His Day In Court

Posted by J. Tinsley on September 25, 2010

This actually happened nearly two weeks ago, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know about it. We all know Bob Marley. His timeless music. We’ve all got our favorites. The marijuana connection. We’ve all see the posters and paid homage in some shape or fashion. And his untimely death. We’ve heard damn near as many conspiracy theories around his as with Tupac’s.

The name “Marley” is as polarizing as it is symbolic. Given this, it only makes sense that his name would be able to support his family for decades. Not exactly. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled UMG Recordings was the copyright owner of five Bob albums he recorded between the years of 1973-1977. His family, on the other hand, was left out to dry.

The albums “Catch a Fire,” “Burnin’,” “Natty Dread,” “Rastaman Vibrations” and “Exodus” were recorded with Marley’s band The Wailers. They include some of Marley’s best-known songs, including “Get Up, Stand Up,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “One Love.”

Marley died of cancer in 1981 at age 36.

Friday night’s ruling 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 family’s beef centered around two main arguments. Apparently the label was turning the other cheek in regards to royalties to their Fixty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd. company and not honoring a 1995 agreement which said  they had rights to original recording agreements. Secondly, Bob’s family were not consulted on certain licensing deals – which included Marley’s music being featured as ringtones on AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

I’ll never be confused for a legal expert, but those sound like legitimate claims. However, they fought the law and the law won.

But Cote concluded that 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 added that 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.

I don’t know. It just strikes me odd that his family doesn’t get awarded compensation. No matter how I try to look at the situation, I can’t seem to justify it. Maybe his family is greedy, corrupt or any other adjective that fits. And if that’s the case, cool.  At the end of the day, the decision doesn’t surprise me because I understand the world we live in is far from fair and never will be. It’s just crazy a piece of paper holds more relevance than blood.

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One Response to “Bob Marley Gets His Day In Court”

  1. […] Grade A: Bob Marley Gets His Day In Court    […]

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