The Lion Sleeps Tonight - Update

The ongoing battle to have Solomon Linda recognised as the originator of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" came a little closer to victory on 7 September 2004

The ongoing battle to have Solomon Linda recognised as the originator of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" came a little closer to victory on 7 September 2004 when Judge Daniels handed down judgment on an urgent application brought by Disney Enterprises Inc. to set aside the attachment of their trade marks in South Africa.

The case began in July 2004 when Dr Owen Dean of Spoor & Fisher, acting for the estate of the late Zulu songwriter, announced that he was suing Disney Enterprises for unauthorised use of Linda´s music in The Lion King and its various spin-offs. At a press conference, Dean made it clear that although he had no axe to grind with Disney as such, he intended to hold the Disney trade marks hostage pending resolution of the Linda family´s claims for a fair share of the earnings of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Linda´s family avers that this immortal pop song, which continues to generate millions in royalties, is substantially based on Linda´s 1939 hit "Mbube." Yet Linda died a virtual pauper, and his daughters continue to live in poverty in Soweto.

At the end of last month, Disney filed an urgent application asking the High Court to declare the trade mark attachments invalid, largely on the grounds that:

  • The executor´s appointment was invalid for technical reasons and therefore he does not have the authority to represent or act on behalf of the Linda estate;
  • Disney did not infringe the copyright allegedly owned by the estate of Linda; and
  • The executor failed to disclose material facts to the judge hearing the initial application for the attachments of the Disney trade marks.

Judge Daniels dismissed this application. He found that the appointment of the executor was on the face of it proper and regular; that prima facie a case was made out for copyright infringement and that the executor had not failed to disclose material facts to the court.

This leaves Linda´s estate free to continue with the original copyright infringement case. "We are understandably delighted that this case will now be judged on merit and not on procedural and technical minutiae", Dean commented.

More information on the Lion Sleeps Tonight court case can be found in the following article:

Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and others "kidnapped and held hostage" in extraordinary legal proceeding

Dr. Owen Dean

SPOOR & FISHER

Date published: 2004/09/01
Author: Dr Owen Dean

Tags: the lion sleeps tonight solomon linda disney