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Family settles Lion King copyright suit

Published Feb 16, 2006


Relatives of the original composer of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" have dropped a lawsuit against Disney after settling for an undisclosed sum of money with a US music publishing house, their lawyer said Thursday.

The family of the late Solomon Linda, who composed the original Zulu tune for the song, was claiming R10-million in damages from the entertainment giant.

Linda, who died with less than $25 (about R151) in his bank account in 1962, was a Zulu migrant worker who composed the song "Mbube" (lion) in Johannesburg in 1939 and recorded it with a singing group called the Evening Birds.

South African lawyer Owen Dean said the settlement was reached with New Jersey-based Abilene Music, which holds the copyright to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" which in turn licenced it to the Walt Disney Corporation.

"All of the parties to the litigation plus Abilene are part of the settlement and in terms of it all, the litigation will be withdrawn," Dean told AFP.

"The settlement involves a payment of back royalties to the family and the right to participate in the royalties in the future and that's on a worldwide basis," he said.

The lawyer declined to disclose the amount paid by Abilene Music, simply stating: "We are satisfied with it."

The settlement ends a long-running dispute between Solomon's relatives and companies including Disney over the rights to the song, sparked by a Rolling Stone magazine article in 2001 which reported on Linda's family living in abject poverty in Soweto township near Johannesburg. - Sapa-AFP

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