The Gap Band Heirs Drop BMG Breach of Contract Suit After Just Four Months — ‘There Was No Settlement’

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Towards 2023’s beginning, the heirs of The Gap Band’s Ronnie Wilson and Robert Wilson sued BMG for allegedly failing to pay owed royalties from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Now, the estates have dropped the suit, and BMG has made clear that “there was no settlement.”

Bertelsmann’s BMG just recently reached out to DMN with a lengthy statement about the complaint’s withdrawal. For background – we covered the action in detail shortly after it was filed in January – the Wilson brothers (Ronnie, Robert, and Charlie, the latter being a non-party who turned 70 three months ago) co-wrote 1979’s “Oops Upside Your Head.”

The much-sampled work was incorporated into “Uptown Funk” and, following a legal challenge, The Gap Band members were in 2015 added as co-writers on the newer of the tracks. Meanwhile, BMG that same year formally unveiled the acquisition of London-based publisher Minder Music; the Berlin-headquartered business made a point of emphasizing that the Minder deal extended to a stake in “Oops Upside Your Head.”

And according to the now-dismissed action, Robert and Ronnie Wilson had back in 1978 assigned to a third party their rights in “Oops Upside Your Head,” with the interests at hand ultimately ending up with Minder and, in turn, BMG. But Ronnie (who passed away in 2021) and the estate of Robert (who passed away in 2010) moved in 2016 to terminate the Minder copyright for “Oops Upside Your Head” – a move that the plaintiffs claimed entitled them to partial ownership of (and royalty payments from) “Uptown Funk.”

BMG “refused and failed to provide either the funds due” or “an accounting,” the January suit maintained. Of course, the defendant music company, which achieved a 30.6 percent year-over-year revenue increase during 2022, promptly pushed back against the allegations.

As mentioned at the outset, BMG has weighed in on the decision to drop the case in a nearly 200-word statement, reiterating the above-described timeline and claims before addressing the development directly.

“Although the allegations were widely reported, they were without merit, as confirmed by the fact that the plaintiffs have now withdrawn their lawsuit,” BMG indicated in part. “There was no settlement agreement and BMG has paid no money in respect of these charges. The plaintiffs will pay all their own costs.”

While BMG didn’t address the precise circumstances behind the dismissal – it was only last month that the plaintiffs in a letter declined to cease pursuing the case – the actual notice shows that the suit was dismissed without prejudice. The heirs who initiated the legal battle don’t appear to have commented publicly on the news, but BMG also took the opportunity to tout “its commitment to treat artists fairly.”

“BMG takes seriously its commitment to treat artists fairly and transparently and its reputation for doing so,” communicated the label and publisher, which is no longer delineating between catalog and frontline releases.

“Alongside their brother Charlie Wilson – who was not party to the lawsuit – the late Ronnie J. Wilson and Robert Lynn Wilson of The Gap Band were among the most influential musicians of their generation,” concluded the DEVO executive producer and financier BMG. “We honour their memory and are proud to represent many of their music publishing and recording rights.”