Legal and Management

Bob Dylan Argues Co-Writer Gets No 'Double-Dip' From $300M Songs Sale

Bob Dylan
Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bob Dylan performs on stage with a Gibson acoustic guitar at the Fox Warfield Theatre in Nov. 1979 in San Francisco, Calif.

The defense of a lawsuit has Bob Dylan's attorneys discussing for the very first time some details about the legendary songwriter's recent $300 million sale of his entire catalog to Universal Music. This week, Dylan moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought in New York by the estate of Jacques Levy, who collaborated with Dylan on his 1976 album Desire.

Levy's widow claims the estate is entitled to a portion of the $300 million sale, specifically targeting $7.25 million, but according to Dylan, Levy co-wrote songs under a work-for-hire agreement that entitled him to royalties, not any share of the sale of copyrights.

"This lawsuit is an opportunistic attempt to rewrite a 45-year-old contract to obtain a windfall payment that the contract does not allow," writes Dylan's legal team led by Orin Snyder at Gibson Dunn.

According to the memorandum in support of dismissal, Dylan was one of the rare songwriters who owned copyrights to his musical compositions. He evidently maintained full publishing control, and with respect to songs co-written with others, sole ownership also came because he treated these musicians as employees in contract. As for the catalog sale last November, Dylan says he "no longer owns the copyrights or has any right to royalties from their exploitation."

But, Dylan's court papers add that while he'd no longer be getting new money from exploitation of his legendary songs including "All Along the Watchtower," "Tangled Up in Blue" and "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" he ensured that Universal would assume obligations to his old collaborators including Levy, who co-wrote 10 songs and contracted for a 35 percent cut of income earned on them.

"Dylan thus extinguished his own rights in the songs at the same time he made sure that Plaintiffs’ right to compensation from future uses of the songs was preserved," states the court memo, characterizing the Levy estate as now seeking an "impermissible double-dip."

See the full memo at THR.com.

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