Hurricanes Sue Hip Hop Artist For Promoting Team; Artist Sues 'Canes For Not Paying Him To Promote The Team

from the bangs-head-on-desk dept

You would think that with so many such stories, it would be difficult to surprise us on ridiculous intellectual property lawsuits, but every day there's something new and equally mind-blowing. The latest involves both sides in a dispute jumping to their intellectual property guns, in a situation that seems silly no matter how you look at it.

It starts with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team suing a hip hop singer for trademark infringement after he wrote and recorded a song promoting the 'Canes. No. Seriously. Tyrone Banks apparently is a big 'Canes fan, and so he made a song singing about the team, and made a video with himself wearing a Hurricanes jersey. At first the team seemed to respond smartly to it. They played the song at games, and even gave Banks free tickets to a game. But, now they're suing, saying that he's violating their trademark by calling his song the "official Carolina Hurricanes song" and also demanding that he stop wearing Hurricanes jerseys in any promotional materials. Considering the song is about the Hurricanes, and the team sells its jerseys to the public to wear, I'm having a difficult time understanding how it can stop him from using it to promote the song.

That sounds crazy, right? But... there's a flip side that makes Banks equally questionable.

That's because Banks also sued the Hurricanes claiming copyright infringement. He's claiming that some of the times they played the song, it was infringement, because he only authorized the song's use during games "so long as the team displayed his name, song title, and name of his record company while the song was playing." He's also upset that the song was used in a commercial without compensation. Basically, he's decided to start demanding payment for the use of the song, saying the two sides had a verbal agreement. On the venue stuff, it's difficult to see him having much of a legal leg to stand on. I assume the venue pays its basic performance rights fees, which allow it to play any song without having to get the specific permission of the artists. Tye Banks appears to be an ASCAP member, meaning as long as the venue pays its ASCAP fees, he's probably got no case on the live performances.

The use in commercials... however... may be a different story. That would require his authorization, and it's surprising the team would use the song without any official agreement in place beforehand, but it still seems like quite a leap to then sue for copyright infringement.

Either way, the competing lawsuits seem pretty silly. It's yet another case of entitlement society. Both sides benefited nicely from the original arrangement: Banks got a lot of free publicity for his song, and the Hurricanes got a song that promoted the team. Win-win. Until everyone started freaking out over intellectual property rights and trying to squeeze more money from each other. Even if Banks sued first (the timing isn't entirely clear), it seems particularly brain-dead for the Hurricanes to shoot back with an equally questionable lawsuit that pretty much guarantees bad publicity. If you look at most of the current stories and headlines about this, most don't even mention Banks' lawsuit, but focus solely on the Hurricanes picking on Banks for promoting their team. This is a PR nightmare that could have (and should have) been easily avoided.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 1:05pm


    Exactly what I was thinking.

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