Toots’ former manager wins copyright case against reggae icon’s estate
Toots Hibbert (left), lead singer for Toots and the Maytals, with global manager/executive assistantCabel “Jeffrey” Stephenson.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Cabel Stephenson, the former manager of Toots Hibbert, has won a significant victory against the estate of the late reggae icon in the Supreme Court regarding the intellectual copyright ownership of an album created by cult roots reggae artiste Droop Lion.

The case revolved around the authorship and ownership of the musical works, and the unlawful detention of a hard drive with said works; the case also sought to establish whether the Toots Hibbert estate had an interest in the right to sound recordings in question.

"I have regained access to my hard drive with my masters. I have established clearly now that I am the executive producer," a jubilant Cabel Stephenson told OBSERVER ONLINE.

The ownership of the album became a bone of contention in the wake of ska and reggae legend Hibbert's untimely death on September 11, 2020 from complications developed after battling with COVID-19.

Hibbert had played a key role in producing and composing the Droop Lion album just before his death. His vocals do not appear on the project.

Stephenson sought legal redress to regain access to the hard drive which had been confiscated by the Hibbert estate.

"A landmark case has been established in terms of copyright law in terms of ownership of composition. We are getting in line with international standards. In my experience, we have been working with a lot of people overseas who have no confidence in our judicial system in terms of copyright and want us to sign contracts based on US law, UK law and French law or have arbitration with international tribunals," Stephenson added.

"This now proves we can rely on our courts in Jamaica to establish true ownership and give justified decisions in our courts," he said.

The court ordered the defendants, which included Doreen Hibbert, the widow of Toots Hibbert, to deliver the hard drive to the claimant. The defendants are also required to pay the legal costs incurred by the claimant.

The issue of damages will proceed to an Assessment of Damages in open court.


The Droop Lion album, which is at the centre of dispute, has been called "As Is". During the case, Stephenson claimed he spent in excess of US$81,000 on the production of the album and could have lost all that sum invested if he could not secure a deal for the commercialisation of the project.

"We will now refer to the album, ‘As Is’, as a show of respect to Toots Hibbert who was producing for me (the executive producer) and Droop Lion as the performing artiste on those sound recordings at the time of his death. When he left the studio that day, we were working on the project...this is the last vision, the last work of Toots Hibbert," Stephenson said.

In the initial creative stage, Hibbert played drums and other instruments on several songs on the demo version of the project. Songs such as 'Crazy Conscious', 'Money is God on Earth', 'Pass the Pipe', Pay the Rent and 'Turn the Radio On'.

"We have an abundance and respect for Mr Hibbert, a great legend," Stephenson said.

Droop Lion's album had been scheduled to be released in 2021.

"We were negotiating with a major record label but we were unable to deliver to them because of the confiscation (of the hard drive) by Mrs Hibbert and her daughter, Leba. We wrote to them for us to sit down and discuss it and they refused to respond," Stephenson said.

Stephenson said he will be releasing the first single, 'Money is God on Earth', which was written by Droop Lion (whose real name is Andrew Adrian Brown).

Attorney-at-law Keith Bishop, who appeared for the claimant Cabel Stephenson, hailed the legal victory as one "based on evidence in the law".

“The judge did an exceptionally good job at analyzing the evidence, and coming to what I think is the correct decision based on evidence under the law. She came to the right conclusion based on evidence in the law," Bishop said.

"If there is no agreement between the parties, then we will set an open court hearing to assess damages and all this is subject to appeal but this is a good win at first instance."

Stephenson thanked his legal team which also included Roxanne Bailey and Dianne Watson.

Ian Wilkinson and Jhawn Graham appeared on behalf of the first and third defendants Doreen Hibbert and Leba Thomas. Jacqueline Cummings appeared on behalf of the second defendant, Cressida Rattigan. The defendants had claimed that Toots Hibbert "contributed immensely to the album project by providing vocals, playing instruments and offering invaluable creative direction to Droop Lion" during the recording sessions for the album.

CLAUDE MILLS , Observer Online writer

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