The half brother of reggae legend Bob Marley said Thursday he will fight a lawsuit that seeks to stop him from using Marley's name and image without official authorization to promote an annual Miami music festival and other ventures.
Richard Booker said an internal family dispute should not have escalated into a legal battle. The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of a Bahamian company that represents Marley's widow, Rita, and nine of the late superstar's children.
"I am heartbroken by what is happening," Booker said. "In defense of this case, I am honoring my brother and our mother, whose memories I cherish each day."
The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, asks a judge to stop Booker from using Marley's name, image, lyrics and other intellectual property unless he reaches a licensing agreement to do so with the family company, Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.
"Mr. Booker's sympathetic position is that he is honoring his brother Bob Marley by taking something he does not own and exploiting it for his own personal gain," said Jill Peitrini, attorney for Fifty-Six Hope Road. "We don't call that honor, we call it infringement and we look forward to defending our claim in court."
Marley died in 1981 of cancer at age 36, leaving behind a rich musical legacy that includes reggae classics "I Shot The Sheriff," "No Woman No Cry," "Jamming" and "Exodus."
Booker's ventures include the "Mama Marley" restaurants in Jamaica. He has plans to market an offshoot recipe book. The music festival, to be held for the 19th time in March, uses the Nine Mile name that stems from the area where Marley grew up and is now buried. Three of Marley's sons are scheduled to perform, despite the dispute.
Booker also has a Nine Mile tour business in Jamaica, and the music festival is promoted by another company of his, Bob Marley Movement of Jah People Inc. That entity, he said, was first formed in 1978 as a fan club.
In his statement, Booker said his and Marley's mother participated in many of the businesses before she died in 2008. He suggested that the Marley family is only now challenging his use of the name in order to get a cut of his profits.
"This would not have escalated to this point if our mother where still here," Booker said.
The Marley lawsuit contends the family has long opposed Booker's use of the name but has been unable to negotiate a licensing deal.
The family, according to their statement, is "hopeful that they will be able to amicably resolve their dispute with Mr. Booker and remain ready and willing to do so."
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt