An appeal of a lawsuit against Bob Dylan from the widow of a former collaborator was rejected by a court yesterday (April 5).
Universal purchased the rights to Dylan’s songs back in December 2020 for a reported $300million (£221million) which in turn triggered a lawsuit from the widow of Dylan’s former collaborator Dan Levy. They alleged that his estate had not been compensated sufficiently for his songwriting credits on Dylan’s 1976 album ‘Desire’.
Judge Barry Ostrager of New York initially ruled in Dylan’s favour in August 2021, ruling that Levy’s 1975 deal with Dylan for his work on ‘Desire’ was an “employee-for-hire” agreement which granted all ownership rights of the songs to Dylan.
The judge added that while Levy’s estate was entitled to his ongoing royalty payments for the ‘Desire’ tracks, they should not be granted a cut of Dylan’s overall rights sale.
Levy’s estate then attempted to revive the lawsuit through an appeal that was filed back in November, arguing that Ostrager “cited inapposite cases and ignored that critical information” in his ruling and calling Dylan’s successful defence “the ultimate attempt to rewrite Levy out of Dylan’s history” (via Billboard).
Dylan’s lawyers issued a robust reply to this challenge back in January, with litigator Orin Snyder writing: “This lawsuit is plaintiffs’ opportunistic attempt to rewrite a 45-year-old employment contract to obtain a windfall payment that the contract does not allow.
Now, as per Billboard, a ruling handed down by New York’s Appellate Division saw a panel of judges call Dylan’s agreement with Levy “unambiguous” in that it does not entitle Levy’s widow, Claudia, “proceeds from the sale of the copyrights of the compositions cowritten with Dylan.”
Levy can appeal the decision once more, taking it to the New York Court of Appeals.
Dylan’s lawyer, Orin Snyder, said in a statement: “Today’s decision puts the nail in the coffin of this opportunistic lawsuit. We are pleased the court has again rejected this sad attempt to profit off of Bob’s recent catalog sale.”
NME has reached out to Levy for comment.