Family of Gap Band Sues BMG After Allegedly Failing to Pay “Uptown Funk” Royalties

Jaelani Turner-Williams Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with…
Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The family of late Gap Band members Robert and Ronnie Wilson have sued BMG for unpaid royalties on 2014 song “Uptown Funk.”

The family of late Gap Band members Robert and Ronnie Wilson have filed a lawsuit against global music label BMG for unpaid royalties on 2014 Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk.” A Rolling Stone report claims that BMG has “failed and refused” to pay Ronnie’s widow Linda Wilson, Robert’s daughter Robin and LaTina, and additional family members.

Having filed the suit last week, the family claims that BMG has either “retained all funds due to plaintiffs for its own benefit and enjoyment” or “wrongfully diverted” the funds. The Gap Band’s third member and lead singer, Charlie Wilson, was not named in the lawsuit.

“Despite its obligations to account for and pay to plaintiffs their share of all income received from the ‘Uptown Funk’ musical composition, BMG has refused and failed to provide either the funds due to plaintiffs or an accounting, despite plaintiffs’ repeated demands therefor,” the complaint reads.

The Wilson family claims that Robert and Ronnie gave their publishing rights for “Oops Upside Your Head” to a third party in 1978, and that the company was later bought by BMG in 2015. As the suit alleges that the Wilson family now owns respective shares of “Uptown Funk,” BMG has reportedly “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.’”

The heirs now seek an accounting of money received by BMG following the 2015 agreement between the Wilson brothers and Mars and Ronson, followed by a possible trial to decide compensatory damages for the alleged violation of the contract, along with interest, costs and attorney fees.

In 2015, Robert and Ronnie Wilson were credited as co-songwriters of “Uptown Funk” in an agreement to avoid a potential copyright lawsuit, per AV Club. The Gap Band’s 1979 song “Oops Upside Your Head” was sampled on “Uptown Funk,” with the two brothers being given 3.4 percent of the copyright and music publishing rights for the Ronson and Mars song. In 2016, “Uptown Funk” received Grammy trophies for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 58th Grammy Awards.

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