The widow of songwriter and theatre director Jacques Levy, who co-wrote seven songs on Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire, filed a $7.25 million lawsuit over Dylan’s blockbuster sale of his song catalog to Universal Music Group in December.
According to court records obtained by Billboard. The catch is, Levy never owned any of the songs sold.
In the complaint, which was filed Wednesday (Jan. 20) in New York Supreme Court, Claudia Levy accuses Dylan and Universal of failing to pay Levy’s estate its rightful portion of the proceeds from the catalog sale for the songs he co-wrote with Dylan. She says this breaches a 1975 deal that gave Levy 35% “of any and all income earned by the compositions,” claiming this should include 35% of those songs worth as part of the Universal sale.
Per the lawsuit, Dylan was obligated to pay Levy “Thirty-five (35%) percent of any and all income earned by the Compositions and actually received by [the Dylan Defendants]from mechanical rights, electrical transcriptions, reproducing rights, motion picture synchronization and television rights, and all other rights therein” — which Claudia Levy and her attorney Richard Golub say should include a share of the Universal song catalog sale.
Also included in the suit is an allegation that Dylan and UMG refused Claudia Levy’s request for Levy’s “rightful share” of the catalog sale in mid-December, roughly a week after the acquisition was announced.
Recently in December 2020 Bob Dylan has sold his entire catalog of more than 600 songs spanning six decades to Universal Music Group. Dylan also sold the publishing rights of the Band’s first album Music From Big Pink — thanks to a peculiar arrangement that goes back to 1967
That exchange would just be the beginning of a peculiar relationship between Dylan, Robertson and one of the most enduring standards of classic rock. Yesterday, Universal Music Publishing acquired Dylan’s catalog of 600 songs, for a price rumored to be around $400 million. To the surprise of many, the deal also included Robertson’s “The Weight,” prompting much speculation: Wait, did Dylan co-write the song? Did he own it? Why is “The Weight” even there? (Rolling Stone)
In fact, contrary to initial reports, Dylan didn’t just own the copyright to “The Weight” but to all the other original songs on the Band’s entire first album, Music From Big Pink, sources confirm to Rolling Stone. That means all those publishing rights from the Band’s debut are now in the hands of Universal, as part of the Dylan deal.
The deal includes Dylan’s iconic 1960s counterculture songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” the company said in a statement, but did not disclose the terms of the deal.
Dylan’s song catalog was previously administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, according to a Variety report.
The 79-year-old American singer-songwriter, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, has sold more than 125 million records around the world.
The song-catalog bonanza of 2020 just hit a peak that is not likely to be topped: Universal Music Publishing Group has acquired Bob Dylan’s entire catalog of songs in a blockbuster agreement encompassing more than 600 copyrights spanning 60 years, ranging from 1962’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” to this year’s “Murder Most Foul.” His catalog was previously administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing. (Variety)
Terms were not disclosed, but a source tells Variety that the deal was easily in nine figures. Since 80% of Stevie Nicks’ publishing catalog was acquired by Primary Wave last week for a reported $100 million, the Dylan catalog probably drew a number well above that estimated to be worth over $300 million.