Gap Band Heirs Sue BMG Rights Management for Unpaid “Uptown Funk” Royalties

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Robert Wilson and Ronnie Wilson's heirs are suing BMG Rights Management over unpaid royalties for Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson's 2014 hit song “Uptown Funk.”

uptown funk
CIRCA 1980: (L-R) Robert Wilson, Charlie Wilson and Ronnie Wilson of the funk group “Gap Band” pose for a portrait in circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson were the Gap Band brothers who wrote “I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up and Dance (Oops Upside Your Head)” in 1979. They were also credited as co-writers of “Uptown Funk.” They join the six co-writers of the song, Mark Ronson (Bruno Mars), Jeff Bhasker, and Philip Lawrence. Additionally, Devon Gallaspy and Nicholas Williams (Trinidad James), were credited for their use of a Trinidad James sample of “All Gold Everything”.

According to the lawsuit, Minder Music entered into a written arrangement with Defendant BMG and Universal Music Corp., Sony/ATV Songs LLC, and Imagem C.V (collectively, the ‘Uptown Funk Parties'), whereby the Uptown Funk Parties gave Ronnie Wilson 3.4% and Robert Wilson 3.4% respectively of the copyright in Uptown Funk as compensation for incorporating “The Original Composition” into Uptown Funk.

On January 12, a Manhattan court filed a lawsuit against BMG alleging that it “has failed to pay Plaintiffs” or account for the royalties they were obligated to pay Plaintiffs under a written contract with Uptown Funk co-writers. “

BMG purchased Minder Music, a London-based independent music publisher, and its catalogue in July 2015. Minder also received rights to The Gap Band.

The lawsuit claims that Minder was acquired by BMG and is legally obligated to pay Ronnie Wilson and Robert Wilson all income from “Uptown Funk”.

The estates of the Gap Band members claim that BMG breached their 2015 agreement, resulting in $75,000 in monetary damages. They also seek compensatory damages and a 9% annual interest starting in 2015.

The Gap Band released “Oops Upside Your Head” in 1979 under their album The Gap Band II. It reached No.4 on Billboard's R&B charts.

Nearly forty years later “Uptown Funk”, Ronson's fourth studio album Uptown Special, debuted as the lead song. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), certified it 11 times platinum and was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year as well as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Ronson spoke to Billboard about the creation of the hit in 2015.

Ronson sold 70% to Hipgnosis Songs Fund, in April 2020, of his publishing and writer share interest in his catalog which includes 315 songs. The lawsuit does not name Ronson or Mars.


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