Bob Marley's Recording Rights: The Antitrust Complaint

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Bob Marley's Recording Rights: The Antitrust Complaint

Fri Feb 01, 2008 @ 12:25PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Marleybob The rights to reggae legend Bob Marley's recordings from 1969 to 1972 are at the heart of a complex new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California.

According to the complaint, these recordings were licensed and sub-licensed several times by various parties. Plaintiff Rock River Communications claims itself as one of the original licensees AND licensors of name, likeness, and publishing to Marley's 1969-1972 recordings. But other license family trees existed too, and Universal Music Group found itself with a "conflicting and contradictory 'sets of rights.'" (In 1972, Marley signed with Island Records, now a subsidiary of UMG.)

Now, Rock River is suing UMG on antitrust grounds, claiming the music giant of hoping "to exclude Plaintiff from the reggae genre and the Bob Marley genre of the music sound recording market. ... UMG's interest is also to protect the Island Marley masters and ultimately to establish them as the only available Bob Marley masters, especially for licensing use in film, TV, advertising, and mobile phone ringtones..."

The plaintiff believes that it is perfectly within its rights to sell, distribute and license a remix album called "Roots, Rock, Remixed," which was one of the first Marley remix albums. Rock River claims UMG has tried "to suppress competition with its own album incorporating Bob Marley remixes, which it released in October 2007, four months after Plaintiff's album was released."

The fact that this case is grounded in antitrust law, and not copyright, makes it a pretty interesting one to follow.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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