Bob Dylan won a legal dispute against the estate of a former collaborator. It was a New York judge who gave reason to Dylan’s part, in a lawsuit where Bob Dylan was required, part of the 300 million dollars that the artist reported when selling the catalog of his songs to Universal Music in 2020.
For the 1976 album ‘Desire’, Jacques Levy collaborated with Dylan on a ‘work for hire agreement, a contract that gave Levy royalties but did not make him a co-owner of the copyright.
It should be noted that the terms of the agreement between Dylan and Levy, go beyond the standard in the music industry. For this reason, Levy’s party argues that the contract, by its nature, cannot be classified as a work-for-hire agreement.
The Levy estate demanded, in a lawsuit, 35% of half a million dollars for each song in which Levy co-wrote – taking into account that Bob Dylan received $500,000 for each song on said album, in settlements with Universal Music.
The lawyers of Dylan and Universal Music argued that although it was a very generous contract of employment, it was still an agreement of the same nature – it is a contract work with extra benefits, agreed by both parties. In fact, the actions of Levy’s estate were branded opportunistic by Dylan’s lawyers who denounced that they are trying to rewrite a 45-year-old agreement, with the sole purpose of obtaining money.
In the words of New York judge Barry Ostrager, the agreement between Dylan and Levy was “very clear and unequivocal” – in terms of being a work-for-hire agreement – when Levy was mentioned with the term ’employee’ in more than 80 opportunities.