Cayman Music v Blue Mountain Music

[2016] ECDR 5

18th November 2015

Court of Appeal


Between 1973 and 1976 Bob Marley wrote the 13 songs in dispute. He did not publicly describe himself as the author of them, however. Instead, he deliberately misattributed their authorship to various friends and associates in order to gain control of the copyrights subsisting in them and gain remuneration from them. Bob Marley’s purported justification for this Misattribution Ploy was that he had not been paid any publishing royalties under the 1968 or 1973 Agreements with CMI. In May 1981 Bob Marley died intestate and the Island group sought to acquire the rights to as many of his works as it could. To that end it entered into agreements with his estate and, in 1992, with Cayman. Blue Mountain claimed that under the 1992 Agreement, all the rights owned by Cayman in Bob Marley’s output, including the 13 Works, passed to the Island group.  

Kitchin, Arden and Lloyd Jones LJJ


The appeal involved a complex web of ambiguous music contracts and failures at trial to ask questions of key witnesses regarding the musical compositions that were the subject of those contracts.  The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge had had the importance of the language well in mind and properly had regard to the fact that the Island group wanted to buy everything it could of Bob Marley’s output.

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