Bob Dylan won a ruling Tuesday in a New York appeals court dismissing a lawsuit that claims he owes part of his huge Universal catalog sale to the widow of a former collaborator, a case Dylan called a “opportunistic attempt” to an “unwarranted windfall.
The widow of songwriter Jacques Levy – the co-writer of ‘Hurricane’ and nine other songs on Dylan’s 1976 album Desire — claimed last year that she deserved a $7.25 million cut from the $300 million sale to Universal Music Publishing Group, but a trial judge ruled in August that Levy had waived her claims. rights years ago.
On Tuesday, the New York Appeals Division upheld that decision – and said it wasn’t a particularly close appeal.
“The parties’ agreement is unambiguous and does not entitle the plaintiffs to receive proceeds from the sale of copyrights to compositions co-written with Dylan,” the appeals court wrote. “Nothing submitted by plaintiffs regarding music industry customs and practices supports a contrary reading, or even suggests ambiguity in the relevant contractual language.”
The case was filed in January 2021 by Claudia Levy, a month after news broke that Dylan had sold his entire songwriting catalog of over 600 songs to UMPG. Levy claimed the estate was entitled to a share of the settlement under a 1975 agreement signed on her late husband’s contributions to Desire.
But a few months later, the judge Barry Ostrager threw out the case, ruling that the 1975 agreement was a so-called cash-for-work agreement that clearly granted full ownership rights to Dylan. The judge said Levy was only entitled to his ongoing royalty payments, not a reduction from the rights sale.
Levy had asked the appeals court to overturn that decision, saying the result was an attempt to “rewrite Levy from Dylan’s story.” In January, Dylan blasted the effort to revive the case as an “opportunistic attempt” at an “unwarranted windfall”.
Following Tuesday’s ruling, Levy can appeal the case one final time to New York’s highest appeals court, the Court of Appeals, which could overturn Tuesday’s ruling. But such reversals are rare. A lawyer for Levy did not immediately return a request for comment.
Dylan’s lawyer, Orin Snyder of the law firm Gibson Dunn, said Billboard“Today’s decision puts the nail in the coffin of this opportunistic trial. We are delighted that the court has again rejected this sad attempt to profit from Bob’s recent catalog sale.