Bob Dylan Faces $7.25 Million Lawsuit After Selling His Catalog to Universal Music

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Bob Dylan performing live. Photo Credit: Alberto Cabello

About six weeks after selling his entire catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group, in a deal that was reportedly worth over $300 million, Bob Dylan is facing a $7.25 million suit from the estate of songwriter, theater director, and psychologist Jacques Levy.

Jacques Levy’s wife, Claudia Levy, recently submitted the multimillion-dollar complaint against Bob Dylan to the New York State Supreme Court. Levy, who cowrote seven of the nine tracks on Dylan’s 1976 Desire album, signed a contract guaranteeing him 35 percent “of any and all income earned by the compositions,” according to the suit. Nevertheless, Levy’s estate didn’t receive a payment from UMPG’s aforementioned Bob Dylan catalog buyout, per the plaintiffs.

Among the seven Desire tracks that Jacques Levy helped pen are “Hurricane,” “Isis,” “Mozambique,” and “Joey.” During a 2009 interview, Bob Dylan noted that Levy himself had written the latter song’s lyrics, and that he (Dylan) “just sang” the approximately 10-minute-long work.

Levy, who passed away in 2004, also directed Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour, and his wife said in a recent sit down that he had “worked all the time” on the concert series, which kicked off in October of 1975 and wrapped in May of 1976. Separately, the estate of Jacques Levy maintains in the complaint that it hadn’t immediately received payments from other projects, including Desire placements in Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.

At the time of this piece’s writing, neither the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bob Dylan nor Universal Music Group had commented publicly on the case from Jacques Levy’s estate. More broadly, UMPG’s Bob Dylan catalog acquisition is the latest in a long line of high-profile music-IP investments – including many such deals that have come to fruition in the last month or so.

Two days ago, Round Hill Music acquired the back catalog of Collective Soul and closed a futures deal with the Atlanta-based rock band’s frontman and primary songwriter, Ed Roland. Mick Fleetwood sold his recorded catalog to BMG one week back, and three days prior to that, Round Hill Music bought the catalog of veteran songwriter Jim Vallance.

Lastly, Hipgnosis today announced that it had secured 100 percent of Bob Rock’s production credits on Metallica/The Black Album (1991) as well as four Michael Bublé efforts, for a total of 43 songs. On the year, the Merck Mercuriadis-founded fund has unveiled agreements with Lindsey Buckingham, Jimmy Iovine, Neil Young, and Shakira.

10 Responses

  1. Lawsuits...

    Are the only thing that can make the music monopoly money in the end
    It’s how you can tell lawyers are in charge
    No creative people no ideas no money
    Music monopoly is a zombie corporation

  2. Anonymous

    Why did you not mention Hipgnosis’ initial catalogue purchase from the RZA; that got the ball rolling!

  3. Shup Milstein Esq

    Cash grab. Pay him out and be done with it. Flagrant lawsuits are a time suck where lawyers win in the end.

    • Barrister Barry

      But their deal did say that Dylan would share revenues drawn from that catalog, didn’t it? Seems only fair to share the winnings.

    • Jas

      Cash grab by the estate of a legally entitled co-writer? It won’t take much research to see find his name listed on any publishing documents, or even album covers etc.

      Unless sold, the rights remain with the rights holders. Life plus 50 years was the old standard. Thanks to Disney wanting to hold Mickey forever, life plus 70 years.

      If he co-wrote the material he is OWED his cut. His estate is absolutely entitled to collect. You are 100% correct, stating PAY WHAT IS OWED.

      People that don’t support copyright, typically never create works of value.

      • Jas missed the plot again

        All your lawyering still obviously not a creative

        Is he owed for a ooh here and a lalala there? Ok but one thing you lawyers never see is how the creative community views these matters you should keep this private because it looks like your egregiously feeding off of a legend who like a Dragon guarded his catalog, world renowned for not selling out now had to because of the rampant theft made possible by you and your ilk.

        Just one more tick piling on for one more sip. This looks more like cheating and stealing no matter how happy your “client” is and it sends a message to us and that message is don’t ever work with near around or by these parasites.

        Your tasteless gleeful cheering on these posts lawyer are only inflating the situation. I thank you keep it up!

        But I’m sure you’ll have positive thoughts when gloating to your other lawyer friends how cool you are working as an attorney in the music fraud machine and they are in a cubicle in NY plugging through briefs for JP Morgan but your special until you arent.

        ATTENTION Creative’s here lies Bob Dillans catalog One of which he jealously and ferociously protected for many years of his life to now have been starved out of capital because of lawyering ticks who have infested our industry!

        Remember how voraciously they prey on you to feed off of you and your talent how they houndingly mock your decline with money pilfered off some other artists until your to feeble and starved to continue on! Note how they are so rich and fat off your labor and talent to send there newb coffee girl Jas to pose as a minority female ( their new favorite costume ) and mock your last lumbering steps with congrats citing Disney’s unnatural law as a way for another tick to get his ooh and lalalala money out of you!

        Once this monopoly dies from no new talent which lets face is here because the TALENTLESS have no new ideas to save them from the compounding interest on their debuts fails remember #neversign tell em Jas inspired you!

    • Bianca

      You said it best. Lawyer’s are the only one’s that win in the end.

  4. Pr/Br

    And lil Wayne only got a measley hunnid dang Roc Nation where you at must sting like a b$&@h every time he hears about an artist selling a catalog for anything above a hunnid Wayne smart though he might not want B Man to get a cut whew I will sell my shower song I wrote for 4.99 any takers.

  5. Angelito

    Lawyers do not exist without clients. They are just the vehicle for a litigious society. I bet every one of you would file that lawsuit if it meant millions in your pocket.