Full case report

Barrett v Universal-Island Records & Others

Reference [2006] EWHC 1009 (Ch); [2006] EMLR 567
Court Chancery Division

Judge Lewison J

Date of Judgment 15 May 2006


Summary

Contract – Parties – Agency – Copyright – Authorship – Performers’ rights – ss.182A, 182B, Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 – Regulation 27, Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 1996 – Unjust enrichment – Settlement agreement – Enforcement of settlement agreement – Abuse of process – Estoppel, acquiescence and laches – Cause of action estoppel – Trust of a promise


Facts

AB and his brother CB were members of the band Bob Marley & the Wailers. AB claimed that he and CB were parties to various recording agreements with D1 and D2 and that they were therefore entitled to royalties from record sales. AB and CB also sought damages for breach of their copyrights and performers’ rights by Ds exploitation of the band’s recordings, or alternatively for unjust enrichment. CB having died in 1987, AB brought the claims on his own behalf and as administrator of CB’s estate. Litigation in Jamaica and the US over the assets of Bob Marley’s estate, involving AB but not CB or his estate, had led to a settlement agreement in 1994, to which Ds3-13 were parties but which was also intended to extinguish claims against Ds1-2. Ds contended that this settlement agreement precluded the claims. Ds1-2 had not been parties to the settlement agreement, so Ds3-13 were added in order to enforce it.


Issue

(1) Whether AB and CB were precluded from bringing their claims; (2) Whether AB and CB were parties to the recording agreements, or whether BM entered into them as their agent; (3) Whether Ds had been unjustly enriched at the expense of AB and CB; (4) Whether AB and CB were the authors or co-authors of 7 songs recorded by Bob Marley & the Wailers; (5) Whether Ds had any defence to the performers’ rights claims.


Held

(1) Ds3-13 could enforce the settlement agreement: Deepak v ICI did not apply to compromises of litigation. The agreement precluded the claims brought by AB personally, but not those brought by AB as administrator of CB’s estate. AB’s claims were an abuse of process, and were also precluded by estoppel, acquiescence or laches. No claims were precluded by cause of action estoppel. (2) AB and CB were not parties to the recording agreements. BM entered into them alone. Ds were not trustees of a promise to AB and CB. In any event, Ds had discharged their liability by their payments to BM and his assignees. (3) As Ds had made the payments due under the contracts (albeit to BM who paid AB and CB), they had not been enriched. (4) BM had written 4 of the songs alone and AB and CB were not authors of any of the 7 songs. (5) The performances were all issued to the public pursuant to agreements prior to 1992 and so Ds had a defence.


Comment

Although this case turned mainly on its own facts, the judgment is of legal significance in its limiting of the scope of Deepak and in its analysis of ss.182A and 182B of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, as amended. The latter were held to be ‘new rights’ under the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 1996, such that the defence of prior agreements in Regulation 27 was available to the Ds.


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Instructing Solicitors

Hamlins for the Claimant, Eversheds for the Defendants


Links

Bob Marley bass player loses royalty lawsuit - Reuters
Marley bass player loses royalties bid - Times
Marley bassist loses royalty bid - BBC