Bob Dylan Triumphs In ‘Downright Absurd’ Lawsuit Involving $300 Million UMPG Catalog Sale

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Bob Dylan performing live. Photo Credit: Alberto Cabello

Bob Dylan has officially triumphed in the $7.25 million lawsuit that he faced after selling his catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

A New York court just recently rejected an appeal from the estate of songwriter, theater director, and psychologist Jacques Levy, following an initial dismissal of the case in July of 2021. In brief, Levy (who passed away in 2004) co-wrote seven of nine songs on Bob Dylan’s Desire (1976), including “Hurricane” and “Mozambique.”

But shortly after Bob Dylan sold his catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group for a reported $300 million in December of 2020, Jacques Levy’s wife Claudia alleged that the “Blowin’ in the Wind” artist had failed to honor the terms of a 1975 contract for her husband’s work on Desire.

Specifically, Claudia maintained in the complaint that Dylan under this deal had agreed to pay 35 percent of the compositions’ earnings – including, in turn, part of the more than $300 million from UMPG. (The Duluth native Dylan went on to sell his recordings to Sony Music in late January of this year.)

80-year-old Bob Dylan and his legal team promptly fired back against the action, describing it as an “opportunistic attempt to rewrite a 45-year-old contract to obtain a windfall payment that the contract does not allow.”

The relevant section of the agreement between Dylan and Levy – which, incidentally, isn’t the only decades-old music industry contract that’s spurred a courtroom confrontation as of late – “entitles Levy to a share of the royalty payments from use of the songs—and nothing more,” said the “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” creator’s counsel.

“Plaintiffs are seeking an impermissible double-dip,” continued Dylan’s legal team. “They want both the continuing royalty payments from Universal and a piece of what Universal paid to buy out Dylan. It would be commercially unreasonable, grossly unfair, and downright absurd to pay Plaintiffs their continued stream of royalty payments in addition to a share of the sale money when the only rights relinquished in the sale were Dylan’s.”

The presiding judge in July of 2021 granted Bob Dylan’s dismissal request, as mentioned, and now, a New York appellate court has agreed with the verdict.

“The parties’ agreement is unambiguous, and does not entitle plaintiffs to proceeds from the sale of the copyrights of the compositions cowritten with Dylan,” today’s to-the-point ruling reads. “Nothing submitted by plaintiffs concerning music industry custom and practice supports a reading otherwise, or even suggests an ambiguity in the relevant contractual language.”

At the time of this piece’s writing, Bob Dylan (who’s preparing to enter the world of NFTs) hadn’t taken to Twitter to address his legal victory. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is currently touring as part of the Rough and Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour and remains embroiled in a sexual-assault lawsuit, which his attorneys called “false, malicious, reckless and defamatory” towards 2022’s start.