A U.S. appeals court Wednesday revived legal action between music giant Universal and a small media company over rights to distribute remixes of early recordings by reggae icon Bob Marley.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that a previously-dismissed lawsuit can go to trial over the Marley and the Wailers tracks, recorded before the music legend signed with Universal’s Island Records in 1972.
Universal Music had persuaded a lower court in Los Angeles to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Rock River Communications over a 2006 contract with a third company, for an album entitled “Roots, Rock, Remixed.”
But a three-judge panel on the appeals court ruled Wednesday that Universal must prove that it did not try to block the smaller company from distributing remixes of 16 Marley songs.
Rock River claimed it legally licensed the tracks, recorded between 1969-1972, before Marley signed with Island Records from New Jersey-based San Juan Music.
The Pasadena, California-based appeals court noted that when Marley recorded in Jamaica in the early years, “record keeping was not a primary concern” saying that for decades there was “confusion in the marketplace as to which entities own licensing rights for these recordings.”
Universal could not have the case summarily dismissed “based on the holes in Rock River’s claim to a valid license when the validity of UMG’s own licensing rights is equally spotty,” the court ruled, sending the case back to a lower court for trial.
Marley, hailed as Third World’s first pop superstar with global hits including “No Woman, No Cry,” “One Love” and “Stir it Up,” died from cancer at the age of 36 on May 11 1981.
[Image: Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 30, 1980, via Wikipedia Commons]