Truth in advertising
The Truth in Music Advertising act was first signed into law in 2005 in Pennsylvania. Thirty-four states followed suit, including Minnesota in 2008. It is unlawful to advertise or promote a live musical performance with false or misleading associations between the performing group and the established recording band. Moreover, at least one member of the original group must be involved and have a legal right to use the band’s name.
Are fans aware of this law? Do they care?
J.J. Williams, 32, of White Bear Lake, was astonished to learn that a single band member could legally hold the rights to a band’s moniker.
“If I bought a ticket to a concert and found out only one original guy was onstage, I’d be mad, getting ripped off like that,” he said. “I follow Metallica, so I know they’re not the original lineup, but I can’t keep up with every band out there who’s coming unglued.”
A band’s name is the bedrock of the brand’s fame. This is why Roger Waters sued fellow bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason over the use of the commercially successful name Pink Floyd. The same goes for the Beach Boys, Boston, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple, Sister Sledge and other litigated monikers.
Minneapolis attorney Michael R. Cohen is an expert in intellectual property, especially when it comes to band names.
“The point of trademark laws is to prevent confusion in the marketplace,” he said. “You have to ask yourself: Is this truth in advertising or a deceptive trade practice — saying one thing and offering something different?”
Cohen is a cousin of Lee Oskar, the original harmonica player for the band ***. After prolonged litigation, Oskar and three other original members of *** lost ownership of the band’s name to their manager. The four original members have since regrouped and renamed themselves the Lowrider Band, after their 1975 hit song.
Because of a 1991 court decision, Cohen explained, these original members are no longer able to use *** to promote their performances. “As a result, it is virtually impossible for them to reach out to their old fan base,” he said.