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 @ 12:13pm

    I personally like how everyone was skipping around being happy and stuff riding unicorns on gumdrop prairies... then all the sudden the skies darkened and these two entities started trading blows on a blood soaked battlefield.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    bryce, 12 Aug 2009 @ 12:17pm

    is bangs-head-on-desk dept seeting it self up for a law suit?

    Is techdirt setting itself up for liability? You want to see ridiculous? Wait till the plaintiffs - the Canes and Mr. Tyrone Banks - come after the bangs-head-on-desk dept!!
    It is crying shame and a disgrace to those of us who are proud Americans when lawsuits that are so utterly ludicrous but still allowed to go forward in a court of law.
    Besides lawyers, who really benefits?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Pete, 12 Aug 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Wow... I thought hiring back paul Maurice was a bad move

    The subject says it all

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Austin Moreland (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 12:37pm

    I can see where somebody in the marketing or sales department got riled up when they heard the whole "official song of" thing. I'm sure these people are used to being paid lots of money for the rights to be the "offical whatever" of the Hurricanes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 12:56pm


    I agree with this, it's perfectly understandable for the team to be mad if he is calling it the Official song when it's not.

    Likewise I think he's right at being a little mad over the use of a song in a commercial that he didn't authorize when the team is then turning around and saying it's not the official song of the team.

    Legally I think they're both just slinging mud in hopes some of it sticks so the whole thing is still pretty silly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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


    Exactly what I was thinking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Michial Thompson, 12 Aug 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Chicken or the Egg???

    Which Law Suit come first? My guess is the Hurricanes come first for the use of the "official song of crap" which is a legitimate case of infringement.

    Then the Hip Hop POS decides that he no longer likes his songs being played so he turns around and tries to make a wash of the uses...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Fatduck (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 1:28pm

    But it claims he did not have permission to refer to the tune as the "official" song of the Canes or the team's "anthem." Banks removed both terms from his Web site under a cease-and-desist order but was still seen wearing a Canes jersey in promotional material, implying an affiliation with the team, according to the suit.

    Referring to his song as the "Official song of the Carolina Hurricanes" or the "Carolina Hurricanes Anthem" seems to be cut-and-dry infringement of the Hurricanes trademark. He complied with the C&D in this respect, so I don't see what the problem is.

    Seriously, though, wearing a Hurricanes jersey implies an affiliation with the team? Jerseys that are sold to the public?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Another anonymous poster, 12 Aug 2009 @ 1:50pm

    ...Positive example of mutually beneficial arrangement

    The Dallas Stars have a song written and composed by the metal band Pantera. Pantera, for those who don't know, is originally from the Dallas/Ft Worth metro area. Rather than go thru major legal garbage, one party contacted the other(I am not certain who contacted who) and Pantera created the song. It is not a full length song, only a short musical number with rhythmic chanting of Dallas Stars at key points, but it is considered to be an official song for the Dallas Stars. Pity that this has occured for the Canes and Banks. Stupidity seems to be rampant in any industry these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Welcome to the USA Mike!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    teknosapien (profile), 12 Aug 2009 @ 2:31pm

    This is Funny

    nuff said let them give us a show

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    TheStupidOne, 12 Aug 2009 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Chicken or the Egg???

    I was wondering which came first ... is one suit just an attempt to get the other one dropped?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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