Years following the death of reggae legend Bob Marley, his family has hit a standstill in winning back the rights to his classic albums. Following a verdict in a lawsuit against Universal Music Group’s UMG Recordings unit, Marley’s widow Rita and his nine children lost the battle to assume the copyright of five albums recorded between 1973 and 1977 for Island Records.
The suit, which sought to reacquire the rights for ‘Catch a Fire,’ ‘Natty Dread,’ ‘Burnin’,’ ‘Rastaman Vibration’ and ‘Exodus,’ was intended to recover millions of dollars in damages that the family claims UMG earned from “exploiting […] the quintessential Bob Marley sound recordings.”
The family also claimed that UMG ignored an agreement reached in 1995 to share royalties with the Marley family’s company Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd, in addition to failing to consult on key licensing decisions such as use of Marley’s songs in the ringtone market.
“Each of the agreements provided that the sound recordings were the ‘absolute property’ of Island,” wrote U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in a statement. “Whether Marley would have recorded his music even if he had not entered the recording agreements with Island is beside the point.”