‘Uptown Funk’ at Heart of New Royalties Lawsuit Against BMG
Years after members of the Gap Band were added as co-writers of the hit song, their heirs say they aren't getting paid their cut.
BMG Rights Management is facing a new lawsuit claiming the publisher has failed to pay royalties from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars‘ smash hit “Uptown Funk” to the families of late members of the Gap Band, who are credited as co-writers on the song.
In a complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the heirs of Robert and Ronnie Wilson claim that BMG breached a 2015 deal that was inked because “Uptown Funk” incorporated elements of the Gap Band’s 1979 song, “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Upside Your Head).”
“Despite its obligations to account for and pay to plaintiffs their share of all income received from the Uptown Funk musical composition, BMG has refused and failed to provide either the funds due to plaintiffs or an accounting despite plaintiffs’ repeated demands,” the lawsuit says.
Mars and Ronson are not accused of any wrongdoing and are not named in the lawsuit. In a statement to Billboard, a spokeswoman for BMG said the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit, making it “difficult to comment” on the allegations.
“What we can say is that previous litigation attempts by the plaintiffs have been thrown out of court and we are confident of our position,” the company said. “We will be in a better position to state our case if and when papers are served.”
As reported by Billboard at the time, the songwriting credits to “Uptown Funk” were suddenly amended in 2015, months after the song was released. After the owners of “Oops Upside Your Head” filed a claim against the song on YouTube — and in the cautious aftermath of a blockbuster infringement verdict over Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines” — the five co-writers of The Gap Band song were each given 3.4% stakes in the then-new track.
The new case was filed by Linda Wilson, the widow of Ronnie Wilson, and by Robin Lynn Wilson, LaTina Wilson and Robena Wilson, the heirs of Robert Wilson, over those two late band members’ respective 3.4% stakes. The other three members who received such stakes are not involved in the case.
In a statement to Billboard, Wilson family attorney Michael Steger told Billboard that his clients have been “working for years” to receive credit for their contributions to “Uptown Funk” and had been “left with no choice but to pursue litigation to protect their rights.”
In their complaint, the Wilson heirs called the new allegations of non-payment against BMG “yet another chapter in a long-running series of disputes” over the hit song, which spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and 56 total weeks on the chart.
They aren’t wrong. In the years after “Uptown Funk” was released, at least three lawsuits were filed claiming Ronson and Mars stole elements from earlier songs. One case involved the 1983 song “Young Girls” by the band Collage; another centered on the 1980 funk song “More Bounce to the Ounce” by the band Zapp; the third alleged they copied material from the 1979 classic “Funk You Up” by The Sequence.
All three cases were later dropped or settled.
Read the entire new lawsuit against BMG here: