In 2008, Universal Music Group Inc. threatened to sue Rock River Communications Inc. to block the release of an album of remixes of Bob Marley's early music. Universal claimed that it owned the rights to the music and had not given permission to Rock River to make the album.
Instead, Rock River sued them first, saying they had obtained the license from San Juan Music Group Ltd., which had been licensing the music since 1980. Rock River lost the case initially, but that decision has been overturned by the federal appeals court. The appeals court decided that Universal had not actually proven that they owned the rights to Marley's music.
The court's ruling said, “When the music was initially recorded in Jamaica in the 1960s, record keeping was not a primary concern...The absence of legal documentation has led to confusion in the marketplace as to which entities own licensing rights for these recordings.”
The next trial will have to determine who actually owns the rights to Bob Marley's music before it will be able to make a ruling. The lack of documentation and the fact that it all took place 50 years ago will make that very difficult.
Read more about the case on Billboard.