Gallant & Ervin Obtains Jury Finding that Estate of Bob Marley Owns Three Pieces of Artwork Depicting Bob Marley (November 2010)

On June 15, 1995, Bob Marley Music, Inc. (“BMMI”) and Jurek International Graphics, Inc. (“JIG”) entered into a License Agreement (the “Agreement”) under which JIG agreed to produce certain artwork depicting the late reggae music star, Robert Nesta Marley (“Bob Marley”), and BMMI licensed to JIG the right to exploit the image and likeness of Bob Marley in the artwork on t-shirts and sweatshirts for retail sale. The Agreement provided that ownership to the copyrights of any and all artwork created pursuant to the Agreement would vest in BMMI at the expiration of the term of the Agreement.

Pursuant to the Agreement, Jurek Zamokski (“Zamoyski”) created three airbrush paintings of Bob Marley known as “Lion Zion,” “Kaya Man,” and “Rasta Dreads.” (collectively, the “Artwork”). The Artwork was then reproduced and sold on t-shirts and sweatshirts in accordance with the Agreement. At the conclusion of the term of the Agreement, BMMI and its licensee continued to exploit the Artwork on merchandise. Zamoyski eventually commenced suit against BMMI and its licensee asserting that he owned the Artwork and that BMMI’s use of the Artwork constituted copyright infringement. BMMI counterclaimed against Zamoyski for Breach of Contract and for a Declaratory Judgment that it owned the copyrights to the Artwork pursuant to the terms of the Agreement. BMMI moved for summary judgment on Zamoyski’s claim of copyright infringement. The Court granted BMMI’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that Zamoyski’s copyright infringement claim was barred by the Copyright Act’s three (3) year statute of limitations because BMMI had repudiated Zamoyski’s claimed ownership to the copyrights in the Artwork at the earliest in 2003, or at the latest in February 2005, both dates of which were more than three (3) years before Zamoyski commenced the action on June 30, 2008.  Zamoyski v. Fifty-Six Hope Rd. Music Ltd., 718 F. Supp. 2d 128, 136 (D. Mass. 2010)

The matter was tried before a jury on BMMI’s claims for Breach of Contract and a Declaratory Judgment for ownership of the copyrights to the Artwork. Zamoyski defended these claims by contending that he was not a party to the Agreement as it was signed by JIG and, as such, the copyrights to the Artwork were not validly assigned to BMMI. The Copyright Act provides, however, that copyrights can be assigned by the copyright owner’s agent. After a three day jury trial and the submission of Special Verdict questions, the jury found that Zamoyski’s agent had “actual authority” to sign the Agreement on Zamoyski’s behalf. Accordingly, the Court entered a Declaratory Judgment that BMMI was the owner of the copyrights to the Artwork. BMMI’s successor, Fifty Six Hope Road Music, Ltd., is now the record owner of the copyrights to “Lion Zion” “Kaya Man” and “Rasta Dreads.” Finally, the Court also awarded BMMI $90,770.80 in attorney’s fees and costs as a prevailing party under section 505 of the Copyright Act.  See Zamoyski v. Fifty-Six Hope Rd. Music Ltd., 767 F. Supp. 2d 218, 225 (D. Mass. 2011)

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