Five Musicians Who Sued Companies for Using Their Image
I'm going to guess the average Hot Topic shopper doesn't know who Joan Jett is. In fact, they may think she was a fictional character created for that Runaways movie with Kristen Stewart. They may, however, know all about her Blackheart brand, because Jett alleges in a new lawsuit that Hot Topic has been making quite a bit of money using her logos and trademarks on their clothing.
Hot Topic counters that they own trademarks on the Blackheart brand and that Jett and her record company had up until now taken no issue with it. Regardless, it puts Jett in a category of artists who feel that companies have misused and misappropriated their brands, something many of her peers know all too well about.
5. YACHT This one never went to litigation, but it probably should have. Earlier this year, clothing store Kohl's put out a shirt that not only featured lyrics from a song by indie-rock band YACHT, but that even appropriated their stylized font. It was a YACHT shirt in every way except for the fact that YACHT had nothing to do with it and were seeing no profits from it.
They released a message on their Tumblr condemning Kohl's for it, and the shirt quickly disappeared from the Kohl's online store. No doubt if they had decided to press charges that YACHT would have a pretty strong case, but they let the issue die when Kohl's quit selling the shirt.
4. The Band This one just makes me sad. In 2004, Cingular Wireless used the Band's famous hit "The Weight" in an ad for cell phones. Former drummer Levon Helm was appalled by it, calling it "just a complete, damn sellout of the Band."
Despite being paid for the use, Helm sued Cingular because he hadn't given permission first. Unfortunately, it was later found that Capitol Records, which owns the Band's music, had given permission, and Helm lost the lawsuit just one month before his unfortunate passing from cancer.
3. Eminem Eminem has kept running into this problem over the years, but the latest might be the funniest. Earlier this year, Facebook premiered a new ad featuring his song "Under the Influence." One problem: Eminem never signed off on that. He and his people immediately got litigation underway.
The best part, though, is that in their allegations against Facebook, they claim the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy (who are also named in the lawsuit and handle Facebook's account) used Eminem's music specifically to appeal to the tastes of owner Mark Zuckerberg.
Strangely enough, they may be right. It was found earlier this year that a young Zuck's first website still exists featuring, what else, Eminem lyrics under the "about me" section.
2. Black Keys It figures that when blues rock band the Black Keys started to explode that people would want their music in literally everything. I've heard their music in commercials before, but those were apparently done with the Black Keys' permission because I don't think they garnered lawsuits.
Unfortunately for Home Depot and Pizza Hut, they both forgot the golden rule: ask permission before you use someone's copyrighted music. The Black Keys slapped both companies with a copyright infringement lawsuit last year when they co-opted songs for their ads.
1. Tom Waits Fiercely protective of his own music, Tom Waits is the king of suing companies. He's also immensely popular and eternally hip, so you can imagine how many companies would want to associate him with their brand. The surprise is which ones he's actually found himself up against.
Back in the '80s, Waits took on Frito-Lay for using a Waits impersonator in an ad for a new flavor of Dorito's. Why anyone would instantly think "Dorito's... Tom Waits!" when writing an ad is beyond me.
The most recent was another carmaker, Adam Opel AG. When it was over with, Waits commented, "I'm glad to be out of the car-sales business once and for all."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.