16 January 2023CopyrightLiz Hockley

Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ hit by fresh lawsuit over unpaid royalties

Gap Band family members suing BMG over claims that the music publisher breached copyright contract | Fourth case involving Ronson and the hit song | Heirs claim they are owed royalties.

The family of Gap Band members Robert and Ronnie Wilson is suing BMG in a copyright dispute over Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s 2014 hit collaboration “Uptown Funk”.

Mars and Ronson’s track incorporates elements of Gap Band’s 1979 song “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Upside Your Head)”. According to the complaint, music publisher BMG breached a contract that entitled the Wilson heirs to royalties as part of a 2015 copyright agreement.

According to the lawsuit: “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’.”

Brothers Charlie, Robert and Ronnie Wilson formed R&B and funk group Gap Band in Oklahoma in 1967. Robert died in 2010 and Ronnie died in 2021.

Initially, their composition rights to the Gap Band song at the heart of the dispute were assigned to a company called Minder Music. However, Ronnie’s widow Linda Wilson, along with other family members, reclaimed the copyright from Minder in 2016, according to the complaint.

The copyright agreement gave 3.4% of “Uptown Funk” royalties each to co-authors Ronnie and Robert. Their successors say that BMG has breached the agreement by “failing and refusing” to make payments to them despite “repeated demands”.

BMG’s alleged breach of contract has cost the family “damages in excess of $75,000 including costs and interest” according to the lawsuit.

“Uptown Funk” controversy

Mars and Ronson have faced previous litigation over the hit song, with a separate dispute with the Wilson heirs raised in 2021 and dropped in 2022.

Back in 2016, the pair were sued over claims that the tune infringed a 1983 single called “Young Girls” by electro-funk band Collage. The case was settled in 2018.

In 2017, Lastrada Entertainment Company filed a claim accusing Ronson of copying parts of 1980s funk song “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Roger Troutman, released as part of the album “Zapp”.

Lastrada alleged that “Mark Ronson failed in his goal to write something new. Substantial parts of ‘Uptown Funk’ were copied from ‘More Bounce to the Ounce’.”

The lawsuit was settled in June of the following year, according to  Pitchfork.

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More on this story

31 October 2016   Singer Bruno Mars and record producer Mark Ronson have been named in a copyright infringement lawsuit centring on their hit song “Uptown Funk”.
16 April 2018   Singer Bruno Mars and record producer Mark Ronson have agreed with the representatives of 1980s electro-funk band Collage to dismiss a copyright dispute.