Bob Dylan Moves to Dismiss $7.25 Million Lawsuit Stemming From UMPG Catalog Sale

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Bob Dylan performing live. Photo Credit: Alberto Cabello

In late January, Bob Dylan was named in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for allegedly failing to honor the terms of a contract he’d inked with songwriter, theater director, and psychologist Jacques Levy. Now, the 79-year-old “The Times They Are a-Changin’” singer and songwriter has formally moved to dismiss the complaint.

For background, the suit arrived about six weeks after Bob Dylan sold his entire catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) in what was reportedly a more than $300 million deal. The estate of Jacques Levy, who co-wrote seven of the nine tracks on 1976’s Desire, maintained that Dylan had agreed to pay 35 percent “of any and all income earned by the compositions.”

Nevertheless, Levy’s estate indicated in their $7.25 million action that they hadn’t received compensation from the catalog deal with UMPG. Levy, who also directed Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the mid-1970s, co-authored Desire tracks including “Hurricane,” “Isis,” “Mozambique,” and “Joey.”

But as initially mentioned, Bob Dylan and his legal team have officially moved to dismiss the complaint, a newly filed document has revealed. At the outset, the defendants characterize the lawsuit as “an opportunistic attempt to rewrite a 45-year-old contract to obtain a windfall payment that the contract does not allow.”

Plus, Bob Dylan and his counsel allege in the motion to dismiss that the 1975 agreement defines Levy as an employee and entitles him to 35 percent “of the royalty payments from use of the songs—and nothing more.” Said contract represents “a classic work-for-hire agreement,” the suit proceeds.

“Licensing songs for an ongoing revenue stream is categorically different than selling absolute title in those songs for a one-time payment, and Plaintiffs are trying to stretch the words of Section 7 far beyond their intended meaning,” continues the legal text.

Section 7, for its part, describes Levy as an employee and specifies that he’s entitled to “Thirty-five (35%) percent of any and all income earned by the Compositions and actually received by Publisher from mechanical rights, electrical transcriptions, reproducing rights, motion picture synchronization and television rights, and all other rights therein.”

This clause doesn’t appear to address earnings deriving from composition sales, however, nor does Section 9 of the nearly half-century-old contract. The latter component of the agreement relays that the “Publisher shall have the right to assign, transfer, sell or otherwise dispose of the Compositions and all copyrights and renewals or extensions thereof” – albeit while continuing to make the 35 percent royalty payments to Levy.

On this front, “Universal has agreed to assume the obligation as Publisher to pay royalties,” with the first quarterly statement (and the corresponding compensation) having already been provided, according to the motion to dismiss.

Earlier this week, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt sold her recorded catalog to Irving Azoff’s Iconic Music Group, and IMG also struck a deal with The Byrds co-founder David Crosby about three weeks back.

One Response

  1. Benjamin Husted

    Never heard of U guys till today – but as an older sometimes writer/musician – It’s good to see that your covering these particular situations. I have too many irons in the fire to get the daily emails. Can’t keep up with even the common day stuff.. I think you might get too distracting. I will periodically check back – but will send the vibe out to a few other music minded collaborators. ride on !