Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Legal

BMG sued by Gap Band heirs over Uptown Funk royalties

By | Published on Monday 16 January 2023

Uptown Funk

The heirs of Robert and Ronnie Wilson – two thirds of The Gap Band – have sued BMG over allegations they are owed royalties stemming from the cut of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars song ‘Uptown Funk’ that they received back in 2015.

As you may remember, the five writers of The Gap Band’s 1979 song ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ – including Robert and Ronnie Wilson – were given co-writer credits on ‘Uptown Funk’ in 2015, following the latter track’s release in late 2014.

That move acknowledged the similarities between the two songs, and was made in the wake of the ruling in the big ‘Blurred Lines’ song-theft legal battle, after which the music industry became more nervous about the copyright implications of new songs being heavily influenced by old songs.

As well as the credits, each of the ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ writers also got 3.4% of the ‘Uptown Funk’ copyright. That was negotiated via a deal between the publishers of ‘Uptown Funk’ and the then publisher of ‘Oops Upside Your Head’, Minder Music.

Shortly after that deal Minder Music was acquired by BMG, hence it’s involvement in the new legal battle. The heirs of Robert and Ronnie Wilson reckon that they are not getting the royalties being generated by their respective shares of ‘Uptown Funk’. Both have also exercised the termination right under US copyright law to reclaim their shares of the ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ copyright, which complicates things further.

The lawsuit filed with the courts in New York last week states: “This case is yet another chapter in a long-running series of disputes involving the smash musical composition and sound recording ‘Uptown Funk’, originally credited to Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson”.

“Plaintiffs have monetary interests in ‘Uptown Funk’ owing to its incorporation of the musical composition ‘Oops Upside Your Head’”, it adds.

“In this instalment of the ongoing ‘Uptown Funk’ saga, defendant music publisher BMG Rights Management has failed and refused to pay plaintiffs or account to them for royalties they are obligated to pay plaintiffs pursuant to a written contract as co-writers of ‘Uptown Funk'”.

When approached for comment by Billboard, a BMG rep said they were yet to be served with any legal papers making it hard to comment on the specifics of the new lawsuit, however, “what we can say is that previous litigation attempts by the plaintiffs have been thrown out of court and we are confident of our position. We will be in a better position to state our case if and when papers are served”.

READ MORE ABOUT: | | | | | |