MANHATTAN (CN) – Bob Marley’s widow and children can testify against the UMG record label in an upcoming trial over the copyrights to the reggae legend’s master recordings, a federal judge ruled.
Rita Marley, nine of Bob’s children and their company, Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, want a jury trial to decide whether UMG’s copyright has expired on pre-1978 Bob Marley tracks.
UMG has allegedly withheld proceeds for digital downloads, cellphone ringtones and other royalties, according to the Marleys’ most recent complaint.
“Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to put an end to UMG’s claim to ownership of pre-1978 Marley sound recordings, to UMG’s intentional failure to pay Fifty-Six Hope Road all of the record royalties owed under the Marley recording contracts and to UMG’s refusal to consult with plaintiffs – as contractually required – on licensing decisions that strike at the heart of the Marley legacy,” the complaint states.
Besides Rita, the Marley heirs named in the complaint include Cedella Marley, Damian Marley, David (“Ziggy”) Marley, Julian Marley, Karen Marley, Robert Marley, Rohan Marley, Stephanie Marley and Stephen Marley.
In a round of pretrial motions, UMG wanted to block the Marleys from testifying in front of a jury.
“Plaintiffs’ objective, clearly, is to confuse and mislead the jury into reaching a judgment based not on the handful of disputed facts relevant to whether UMG has correctly accounted to Fifty-Six Hope Road, but on an emotional response to Bob Marley’s life and music, and sympathy for his family,” UMG said.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote shot down that bid on Wednesday, in an order revealing what a jury might expect come trial time.
“The plaintiffs indicate that one or more of them will present non-cumulative testimony about the fame of Bob Marley, the business and purpose of Fifty-Six, the relationship between Fifty-Six and UMG, and to the extent necessary to respond to any argument by UMG, the purpose for which they filed this lawsuit,” Cote wrote.
Trial begins on Dec. 12.