High Court of South Africa [Transvaal Provincial Div.] Case No. 12003/04 (2004)
Comment by Jessie DeJesus
In 1939, a South African migrant worker and entertainer named Solomon Linda wrote and recorded “Mbube” while he was working as a record packer at Gallo Recording Studios. Although the song became an international success over the years and earned its respective performers millions of dollars in royalties, Linda died in poverty in 1962. In 2004, Linda’s estate initiated litigation against Abilene Music Company, which owned worldwide rights of the song and had licensed it to Disney. However, the South African court did not have jurisdiction over Abilene so the estate obtained jurisdiction over Disney by attaching over 200 trademarks registered in South Africa to the suit. Disney urgently filed this action to set aside these attachments, but the court rejected their argument.
Ultimately, the parties reached a settlement that permanently established Solomon Linda as co-author of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” anytime it is performed and entitled Linda’s descendants to past and future royalties. The case was subsequently withdrawn.
Opinion (High Court of South Africa)
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