REGGAE great Burning Spear has launched a scathing assault on a major American reggae distributor, Ernie B's Reggae, claiming the company has shipped bootleg copies of his work.
In two Facebook posts in February, Spear alleged that "they bootlegging all of our music and trying to use the police to get us arrested. Time to unite, it's our music that feed them."
In a second post, dated February 13, Spear called for the California-based Ernie B's to be shut down.
According to the unitedreggae.com website, the singer plans to sue for royalties as part of a wider campaign that includes boycotting Ernie B's Reggae and RAS Records.
On another website www.clintonlindsay.com, Ernie B disputed Spear's allegations. He said during the 19 years he has conducted business with the Grammy winner, he has never seen an illegal copy of Spear's music pass through his warehouse.
"When determining the validity of the claims that Burning Spear music is making against us, it should be duly noted that those claims are being made against virtually every company that they have ever dealt with," Ernie B is quoted as saying. "We continue to hold a deep respect for Spear's legendary works and hope that they will decide to start".
Founded in 1993, Ernie B Reggae Distribution has become arguably the largest distributor of reggae. Many leading Jamaican artistes and producers have distribution deals with the company.
RAS Records, based in Washington DC, was a leading reggae label which at one stage had roots acts like Culture and Israel Vibration on its books.
Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) has always had distribution deals with independent companies, starting with Island Records in the 1970s. That company distributed some of his best albums, such as Marcus Garvey and Man In The Hills. Spear had a similar deal in the 1980s and 1990s with Heartbeat Records, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He is just one of many Jamaican artistes who have had knotty issues over royalties with record companies.