Toots Hibbert’s estate has lost a major copyright battle in the Supreme Court against producer and manager Cabel Stephenson over an album in which the late ska and reggae singer had worked as a producer and musician. , with reggae artist Droop Lion before his death. .
According to court documents obtained by DancehallMag, the case revolved around the authorship and ownership of the musical works associated with Droop Lion and the illegal possession of a hard drive containing such works. The case also sought to establish whether the Toots Hibbert estate had an interest in the right to the sound recordings in question, and concerned the protection of intellectual property rights and the rights associated with the authorship and ownership of various forms of creation. musicals.
Stephenson hailed the ruling as a “historic decision.”
“A historic case has been established in terms of copyright law regarding the ownership of the composition. We are aligning with international standards. In my experience, we have been working with many people abroad. they don’t trust our court system in terms of copyright and they want us to sign contracts based on U.S. law, UK law and French law, or to have arbitration with international courts. ” said Stephenson DancehallMag.
“This shows now that we can rely on our Jamaican courts to establish true ownership and give justified decisions to our courts,” he added.
The case was triggered by a problem that occurred following the death of Mr. Toots Hibbert in September 2020, in which a hard drive, owned by Mr. Stephenson, which contained Droop Lion’s album, was confiscated by D&F Music Inc., a recording. studio located and operated at 32 Edinburgh Avenue, Kingston 10 in St Andrew’s Parish.
Queen Ian Wilkinson’s attorney, who appeared on behalf of defendants Doreen Hibbert and Leba Thomas, argued that Toots Hibbert was the author of the lyrics to the songs on the album project and the executive producer. and as a result he was the owner of the musical work and sound recordings.
Accordingly, the lawyer argued that these musical works and sound recordings should fall into the estate of the said deceased. Any exploitation of this intellectual property must be administered by the personal representatives of the deceased and not by the claimant. Wilkinson stated that “if the claimant is allowed to exploit this intellectual property owned by the deceased, especially before the deceased’s estate is administered, this will seriously harm the deceased’s estate.”
The lawyer also claimed that the deceased (Toots Hibbert) was the executive producer of the Droop Lion album project and therefore the owner of the sound recordings.
However, Judge Stephane Jackson-Haisley disagreed with this assessment and ruled that Stephenson is the legal owner of the hard drive, master tapes, files, and sound recordings for that hard drive.
The judge ruled that the second (Cressida Rattigan) and the third defendant (Leba Hibbert), in their capacity as executors of the last will and will of Fredrick “Toots” Hibbert, must deliver the hard drive to the plaintiff. Proprietary Samsung SSD. by the claimant and that they contain musical works, in which he has a patrimonial, beneficial and economic interest.
The issue of damages is to proceed with an assessment of damages in public hearing. Mr. Stephenson claimed he spent $ 81,000 to produce the album, according to court documents.
The defendants were also ordered to pay the applicant’s legal costs.
“It seems to me that the parties teamed up with the plaintiff as executive producer, Droop Lion as lead artist and deceased as producer and others as Nigel Burrell as producer and engineer to reflect a talented conglomerate where they understand each other their separation, roles and responsibilities. It follows that the musical works and sound recordings on the hard drive do not all belong to the deceased ‘s estate and to D & F Music, “the judge said in her ruling.
There is no documentary evidence before the Court to support the claim that the deceased was paid for his contributions to the album or exactly what rights would be paid to the property, nor is there any evidence that these alleged payments also represented full compensation. and final for any or all of the deceased’s contributions, Jackson-Haisley said.
In addition, Jackson-Haisley ruled that “from all the evidence presented to the Court, there is indisputable evidence that the plaintiff was the one who funded the album project and paid the producers, supporting musicians and vocalists “.
The judge ruled that the hard drive, which contains musical works in which Stephenson has a personal, beneficial and financial interest, be returned to him.
The judge noted the rights of a copyright owner under Article 9 (1) of the Copyright Act and stipulates that the copyright owner of a work will have the exclusive right to perform or authorize other persons to perform certain acts. include the performance of the work in public or, in the case of a sound recording, the reproduction of the work in public.
The copyright in the musical works arises and / or is acquired once the person creates the work. Pursuant to Article 14 (1) of the Copyright Act, the author of a protected literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work has the right to be identified as the author of the work.
Stephenson alleged that the process of recording material for the compilation and release of a Droop Lion album began in early 2020. Mr. Stephenson indicated that he did so in the studio owned and operated by Mr. Hibbert.
Mr. Hibbert wrote songs such as “All is Well”, “Crazy Conscious”, “Poor People Story”, “Sitting on the Wall”, “Speak the Truth”, “Turn the Radio On”, “Vision” and “Pay”. the Rent ‘but it was Droop Lion who wrote’ Money is God on Earth ‘.
Mr. Hibbert played up to six or seven instruments on the Droop Lion project.
Jackson-Haisley made an important point about the future copyright of the songs.
“If Droop Lion claims the rights to these songs, you must prove that each of these re-recorded songs had a sufficient degree of originality and not just simple covers of older works, in order to attract separate copyright. This is further complicated by the fact that the deceased participated in the creation of these re-recorded songs and yet he would still have rights over them, “the judge ruled.
“It is important to note that a work may be considered to be original even if there has been an infringement of the copyright of a previous work in its creation and that the proof is whether its creation involved great skill. and labor that is often known as proof of face sweat. “
Attorney Keith Bishop, who appeared for plaintiff Cabel Stephenson, praised the legal victory as a “evidence-based law.”
“The judge did an exceptionally good job analyzing the evidence and coming to what I think is the right decision based on evidence from the law. He came to the right conclusion based on evidence from the law,” Bishop said.
“If there is no agreement between the parties, we will establish an open court hearing to assess the damage and all this is subject to appeal, but this is a good victory in the first instance.”
Stephenson thanked his team of legal experts who also included Roxanne Bailey and Dianne Watson for their excellent work and brilliant experience.