Bob Dylan can rest easy that he won’t have to hand over a portion of his $300 million sale of his entire song catalog to Universal Music. On Friday, a New York judge rejected a complaint from the estate of Jacques Levy, who collaborated with Dylan on his 1976 album Desire.
Levy’s widow targeted at least $7.25 million from the sale of 10 songs, including “Hurricane,” but Dylan argued that the songs were written under a work-for-hire agreement that only entitled him to royalties, specifically 35 percent of the licensing proceeds for the songs.
New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager sides with Dylan.
“For the reasons explained here, the Court determines that the plain meaning of the 1975 Agreement is that the Dylan Defendants owned all copyrights to the Compositions, as well as the absolute right to sell the Compositions and all associated rights, subject only to plaintiffs’ right to receive the compensation specified in the 1975 Agreement, which does not include any portion of the proceeds from Dylan’s sale of his own rights to the Universal Defendants,” he writes.
Ostrager looks at how Levy attempted to establish joint authorship in the compositions, including witnesses to the relationship between the songwriters and affidavits from experts, but ultimately the judge sees the contract as unambiguous and precluding such a claim.
The judge also rejects the claim that Levy’s estate is a third-party beneficiary of the Universal agreement.
Dylan was represented by Orin Snyder at Gibson Dunn.
Here’s the full ruling: