Aston "Family Man" Barrett, the longtime bassist with Bob Marley & the Wailers, today (March 28) received the green light from London's High Court to mount a claim over the band's royalties, potentially worth millions of pounds.
Barrett is suing Universal-Island Records Ltd and Island Def Jam Music Group, claiming that both he and the estate of his late brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, have not been paid years' worth of royalties due to them under two recording agreements made in the 1970s.
However, the record companies had asked the judge to strike out the claim on the basis that it was an abuse of process of the courts. They also argued that Barrett's claim stood no real prospect of success in the light of a 1994 agreement in which they claim to have settled all legal differences between the parties with the payment of several hundred thousand U.S. dollars.
Rejecting the companies' moves, and ruling that Barrett's claim can go ahead, the judge said that the issues raised were "far too complex and numerous" for it to be safe for him to strike out the claims at this stage before a full trial. This decision, he said, was backed by the fact that the strike-out application hearing had lasted four days, and was filled with detailed arguments on the facts and the law.
In the ongoing claim, Barrett says he and his brother, together with other members of the Wailers at various times, entered into partnerships with Marley on the basis that profits would be shared equally between Marley, on the one hand, and the remaining partners on the other.
Therefore, he claims that Marley entered into recording agreements in 1974 and 1975 as their agent and they were party to those agreements, but Island and its parent Universal Music Group have failed to account to them for any share of the royalties they are due on the albums made under those agreements: "Natty Dread," "Live!," "Rastaman Vibration," "Exodus," "Kaya," "Babylon by Bus," "Survival," "Uprising," and "Confrontation."
Barrett, who still tours with the Wailers, alongside other original members, also seeks further payments in respect of six of the band's songs that he claims were written either by him or his brother