Brian Wilson’s Ex-Wife Sues for Millions After $50 Million+ Catalog Sale to UMPG Last Year

Brian Wilson catalog sale lawsuit

Photo Credit: Takahiro Kyono / CC by 2.0

The ex-wife of Beach Boy Brian Wilson is suing for over $6.7 million in royalties. Here’s the latest.

Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford has sued Wilson for a share of royalties from song rights he sold to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) last year. That deal wasn’t announced, but was valued at more than $50 million according to court documents shared with Digital Music News.

Brian Wilson and his wife Marilyn were married from 1964 until 1978. He co-wrote some of the Beach Boy’s biggest hits during that time period, including “California Girls,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and “Good Vibrations.”

According to a 1981 divorce settlement attached to the lawsuit, Wilson-Rutherford owns half the rights in 170 compositions Wilson created during their marriage. The $6.7 million she is requesting is for the sale of his reversion rights. U.S. copyright law allows artists to reclaim copyrights they had previously transferred away after decades. Wilson-Rutherford says Wilson owes her proceeds from the sale of copyrights he recently reclaimed.

The lawsuit also says Brian Wilson offered his ex-wife $3.3 million. She says that’s only a quarter of what the rights are actually worth. Wilson’s lawyer argues that she is not entitled to the proceeds from the sale because they were divorced long before he was eligible to exercise termination rights on his music.

“Brian’s ownership of the copyright termination interests Brian sold to UMPG depended entirely on Brian’s ‘postmarital efforts’ to obtain them,” his lawyers write. “Brian did not own those termination interests until 30 years after the 1981 judgment was entered and long after the separation of the parties.”

The publisher owned the songwriting copyrights to Wilson’s songs for decades, paying him a 50% royalty rate which he split with his ex-wife. The termination right would have allowed him to win back his catalog from UMPG. In a December 2021 deal, UMPG bought out Wilson’s songwriting share and his termination interest.

According to court documents, Wilson agreed to pay $11 million from the $31 million the UMPG deal generated. But early on in the talks, his lawyers argued she was entitled to nothing from the $19.2 million sale of his termination interest.

4 Responses

  1. Kenny

    Makes sense. Brian will settle. No good vibrations there.

  2. Idiot Detector

    Probably an unsettled issue of law. When divorced, the right to terminate did not exist. Does she have a claim against a right that arose years later?

    My guess is yes. She was awarded an equitable interest in copyrights a long time ago, and part of that interest was reversion rights.

    But, I am just a schmuck living under a bridge who doesn’t wear pants unless I must.

  3. Mr Stamp

    Now we understand why women have fingernails; they’ll claw at anything to get $$ from their ex-husbands so they don’t have to work. Marilyn Wilson is a poster child for divorced females. She’s an embarrassment!!