How To Be Funny And Not A Jerk In A Cease And Desist Notice, From The Doobie Brothers

from the zero-bucks-given dept

I've written about famed classic rock band The Doobie Brothers before. As a person who is very much a fan of the band's music, I was rather disappointed when they decided to go after a cover band, The Doobie Decimal System, over trademark infringement. Their argument was that the names would confuse the public as it is too similar to their own band's name and if you aren't already laughing out loud by now you most certainly should be. The legal team for the band went with some fairly standard messaging as well, rather than taking a softer approach.

Unlike, say, how The Doobie Brothers have decided to handle a copyright C&D with comedian Bill Murray.

Let's assume for the moment that the claims in the letter as to Murray's unauthorized use of the band's music are accurate. I have yet to see any response at all from Murray's side, never mind one that refutes the claim that he used The Doobie Brothers' music without a license. Because what should really standout in this C&D is how congenial and funny it comes across, rather than dropping legal nukes at every turn like so many other C&Ds.

In case you cannot read it, it includes lines such as:

The Doobie Brothers perform and recorded the song 'Listen To The Music', which Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers wrote. It's a fine song. I know you agree because you keep using it in ads for your Zero Hucks Given golf shirts. However, given that you haven't paid to use it, maybe you should change the company name to 'Zero Bucks Given'.

Not bad. But it gets better.

It seems like the only person who uses our clients' music without permission more than you do is Donald Trump.

Ooooh, topical comedy! It's like a Lewis Black bit! What else?

This is the part where I'm supposed to cite the United States Copyright Act, excoriate you for not complying with some subparagraph that I'm too lazy to look up and threaten you with eternal damnation for doing so. But you already earned that with those Garfield movies...

We'd almost be OK with it if the shirts weren't so damn ugly.

Self-deprecation coupled with witty barbs on a famed comedian for what were some truly awful career choices? Five stars all around!

In addition to being a funny example of a topic we cover here all the time, the real lesson in this is that just because there are legal rights at play doesn't mean you can't have some fun. Witty C&Ds like this, with a little basic human decency thrown in rather than explosive legal threats, are far too rare. Handling matters in this way are publicly endearing and, I imagine, likely to get a more positive response from the target of the letter than nuclear threats. Nicely done!

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Filed Under: bill murray, copyright, doobie brothers, zero hucks given


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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 12:17pm

    There's an old story about how, in the 1950s, after EC adapted a couple of his stories without authorization, Ray Bradbury sent them a letter that said

    Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50.00 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories ‘The Rocket Man’ and ‘Kaleidoscope.’ . . . I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.

    They cut him a check and, after that, licensed stories from him with proper payment and credit.

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

    • identicon
      hegemon13, 25 Sep 2020 @ 12:22pm

      Re:

      Huh. Amazing to think that, at one time, the license to adapt a Ray Bradbury story could be had for $50.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2020 @ 12:31pm

        Re: Re:

        Inflation has happened, and today that would be more like $500.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 12:41pm

        Re: Re:

        That's about $500 adjusted for inflation. Which is still pretty low compared to what those rights would probably go for today.

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 12:50pm

          Ray Bradbury licenses for cheap

          Probably because he's super famous now. Some authors are super prolific and yet stay in the realm of schlock-jock, and I can see their prices staying competitive.

          Curiously, in Neil Gaiman's FAQ he states that he charges outrageous prices for lectures and speeches because he really would rather be writing.

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

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 1:55pm

            Re: Ray Bradbury licenses for cheap

            Probably because he's super famous now. Some authors are super prolific and yet stay in the realm of schlock-jock, and I can see their prices staying competitive.

            There's also not really any modern equivalent to an EC story. On the one hand, those adaptations were 8-page stories in anthologies together with a bunch of other stories; on the other, their circulation was massive compared to comics of today.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 26 Sep 2020 @ 12:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Stephen King sold his first short story for $35. Things changes after you get famous...

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

  • icon
    crade (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 1:29pm

    If only everyone put lipstick on their pigs we would all feel so much better about sync licenses being bullshit and love that we still can't freely use music made 50 years ago

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 25 Sep 2020 @ 3:36pm

      Re:

      If only we had the 28-to-56 year term before all those copyright extensions (and the opt-out nature of copyright turning into opt-in) that happened in 1978. At least I can make covers and remixes of music made 95 years ago (which I was working on earlier today, to be frank).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2020 @ 2:44pm

    If someone is selling shirts on tv ads they have enough money to pay to license the money they use. I.m sure bill Murray gets paid alot to make ads for TV.
    Also music composers should have the right to say No I do not want anyone to use my music for any TV ads.
    The rolling stones got 40 million dollars just for allowing start me up to be used for Windows 95 commercials.
    Imagine if someone asked Bill to make a TV ad
    for zero dollars.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2020 @ 5:56pm

    Honestly this just makes me think their representation is ridiculous for going after the cover band.

    Yeah, it's a cool C&D. I can't understand how someone doesn't license third-party music for a commercial advertisement. Derp.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2020 @ 8:09pm

      Re:

      their representation is ridiculous for going after the cover band.

      Which did they do first?

      Maybe they learned from it? Maybe the Doobie Brothers realized that their lawyers needed to chill out some?

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

  • icon
    schnick (profile), 26 Sep 2020 @ 4:19pm

    Uhhhhhhh...

    Let’s please not get ahead of ourselves here. While I agree with the overall premise and conclusion that the tone of this letter is far more human and palatable and therefore vastly preferable when compared to the standard administrative and authoritarian legalese ... it is only by those incredibly low standards that this letter could be considered “funny” or “witty”.

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

  • identicon
    Zonker, 28 Sep 2020 @ 2:29pm

    I think the real crime here is that the cover band missed a better (IMHO) name for their band: The Doobie Decibel System.

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


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