Copyright Dispute Over 13 Bob Marley Songs Kicks Off In London

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A number of Bob Marley songs – including the iconic ‘No Woman No Cry’ are at the centre of a rights dispute being heard at The High Court in London.  The publisher Cayman Music is attempting to retrieve the rights, claiming that they were not included when it sold some of its rights in 1992 to Blue Mountain Music because Marley had written them under different names. Blue Mountain, though, says the songs were covered under the transfer deal.

Bob Marley

Crazy Baldhead, Johnny Was, Natty Dread, Positive Vibration, Rat Race, Rebel Music (Road Block), Talking Blues, Them Belly Full, Want More, War, Who The Cap Fit and So Jah She are all under dispute as Cayman attempt to claw back a large chunk of royalties while Blue Mountain Music claims the deal included all 13 songs. 

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Vincent Ford, a soup kitchen-owner and friend of Marley – the pair grew up together in Trenchtown, a ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica – is listed as the composer of No Woman No Cry. “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,” wrote Spencer Leigh in Ford’s obituary. 

This is in line with Cayman claims that Marley attributed different names to his songs to avoid the provisions of his publishing agreement with the music company. But Ian Mill - a lawyer for Blue Mountain - said the lawsuit was instantly dismissible because the "plain intention" of the 1992 deal was to "transfer all rights".

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