Bob Marley ‘No Woman, No Cry’ Royalty Dispute Trial Opens

The court battle over legendary reggae singer Bob Marley’s classic back catalog continued today as a high court in London opened hearings into the case, according to Gigwise.

At issue are the rights to 13 songs made famous by Marley, who died in 1981 at the age of 36. Publisher Cayman Music, who managed Marley’s catalog from 1967 until 1976, is suing Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s Blue Mountain Music, accusing the company of “misattribution and diversion of income” in relation to some of Marley’s early hits.

Cayman alleges that Blue Mountain Music has never properly credited it for its share of the 13 songs, which includes the classic No Woman, No Cry. According to Hugo Cuddigan, who represents Cayman, Marley agreed to a publishing deal with Cayman in 1973, but credited his songs to others in order to side step the requirements of the contract. No Woman, No Cry, for example, has long been credited to Vincent Ford, a friend of Marley’s who ran a soup kitchen in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, until his death in 2008. Spencer Leigh of The Independent alluded in Ford’s obituary to the idea that Marley may have been a craftier businessman than most music fans realize:

“He [Marley] did not want his new songs to be associated with Cayman and so, in all probability, he put them in the names of his wife, Rita, the Wailers or other close friends to find a way around tight publishing restrictions. This spreading out of writing credits would also have allowed Marley to provide lasting help to family and close friends.”

Leigh also observed that while Ford never denied that he, rather than Bob Marley, authored the songs in question, there is circumstantial evidence that suggests he did not. Very few Marley songs are attributed to him, though he shares credit on several with Marley’s wife, Rita, and son, Stephen.

While Cayman alleges that it has been denied its fair interest in the songs for over 40 years, Blue Mountain Music representative Ian Mill, QC, cites a 1992 agreement that he says has the “plain intention” of transferring Cayman’s rights. According to an account of the trial in The Independent, Mill accepted the fact that Marley falsified the claims of authorship in order to “escape the automatic assignment of their copyright to Cayman.” He alleged, however, that Marley’s “ruse was ineffective.”

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, Bob Marley’s back catalog makes an estimated $9 million annually. Though it is unclear how much of that can be attributed to the songs in contention, Cuddigan referred to No Woman, No Cry as the “jewel in the Marley catalog.”

[Image via Rebel Frequencies]

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