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Jenner & Block recently achieved a significant victory for its client UMG Recordings, Inc., when the Hon. Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted UMG’s motion for partial summary judgment dismissing the claims of the heirs of legendary Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley that they owned the renewal term copyrights in all of Marley’s recordings created pursuant to exclusive recording agreements between Bob Marley and Island Records, the predecessor-in-interest to UMG. The recordings at issue include virtually all of Marley’s best known hits, including “One Love,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “No Woman - No Cry,” and “Stir It Up.”
The plaintiffs -- Bob Marley’s widow, nine of his children and their wholly-owned company Fifty-Six Hope Road Music -- claimed that the right to claim the renewal term copyrights in Marley’s recordings reverted to them upon his death in 1981. They also asserted claims against UMG for underpayment of royalties.
In dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim to the copyrights in question, the Court agreed with arguments made by Partner Andrew H. Bart that, through its predecessor-in-interest, UMG is the statutory “author” of the recordings which were “works for hire” for purposes of the Copyright Act of 1909 and as such, is the owner of the initial and renewal term copyrights in the recordings. The Court also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the royalty accounting claims. In addition to Mr. Bart, Associates Carletta F. Higginson and Joseph J. McFadden are also representing UMG.