Universal Music Beats Marley Estate In Court

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And the prize for the most court-happy label in September?

In terms of big cases, that would be Universal Music Group, which is juggling a load that includes Grooveshark, Eminem, and just recently, the estate of Bob Marley.   Eminem publisher FBT Productions may have just scored a huge victory, but the estate of Bob Marley has been handed a defeat.

According to decision details now emerging, UMG unit Universal Recordings has been ruled the undisputed owner of five Marley album masters created between 1973 and1977 under Island Records.  The decision, issued by US District Court judge Denise Cote in Manhattan, found UMG to be the “absolute owner” of the sound recordings in question, based on a rather straight-ahead “work for hire” arrangement.  The suit covered classics like “No Woman, No Cry,” “One Love,” and “I Shot the Sheriff”.

The timeframe in question was hardly a surprise to Santa Monica-based industry attorney William Hochberg, who pointed to a number of critical legal shifts during the period.  Specifically, 1972 marked the first year that recordings were recognized as separate copyrighted works, while 1977 was the last year that the Copyright Act of 1909 governed.  “So, some of these recordings artists, including Marley, have hoped to regain their precious masters by denying they were employees-for-hire,” Hochberg told Digital Music News.  “This case dashes those hopes at least pending appeal.”