Eversheds and West End firm Hamlins are going head-to-head in a High Court dispute between Bob Marley’s record company and Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, the singer’s former guitarist, over unpaid royalties.
Eversheds product group head Nick Valner is acting for Marley’s estate and record company Universal Island Records as they deny Barrett’s allegations that he has not received royalties due from a 1974 recording contract and that the defendants have infringed copyright.
Hamlins partner Laurence Gilmore is representing Barrett, who is suing on behalf of himself and his brother Carlton ‘Carly’ Barrett. Carlton was the drummer for Bob Marley and The Wailers in the 1970s and was murdered in 1987.
The Barretts and Marley’s estate have been involved in three previous disputes, two in New York and one in Jamaica, over various issues with royalties. Those disputes eventually resulted in a 1994 settlement between Aston Barrett and the Marley estate, in which Barrett was paid $500,000 (£286,100) plus $100,000 (£57,220) legal costs.
The present claim was launched in 2002 by the Barretts’ then solicitors Charles Russell, asserting for the first time that they were party to a 1974 recording agreement.
The case has already been through the High Court once. In 2003, Mr Justice Laddie heard a strike-out application brought by the defendants. He dismissed the application, noting that the issues were “complex and difficult to unravel” and needed to be heard in a full trial. The current High Court hearing before Mr Justice Lewison began on 16 March and is set down for up to 20 days.
Valner is instructing Serle Court Chambers’ Liz Jones QC for the defendants. Gilmore has instructed Stephen Bate of 5 Raymond Buildings as lead counsel for the Barretts.