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What are the rules for who owns a band name?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Turnaround, Jun 24, 2009.

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  1. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    There are many stories of guys in bands who use, or prevent others from using, the band name. What are the rules for who owns a band name?
     
  2. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential

    Location:
    OH
    Whoever has the better agent or lawyer.
     
  3. John Cantrell

    John Cantrell Active Member

    Location:
    Outta here
    Or
    C.) outlives their bandmates.
     
  4. Cassiel

    Cassiel Sonic Reducer

    Location:
    NYC, USA
    There are no "rules" per se, but in instances when it becomes a legal issue it falls under trademark law. The name of a band can be legally protected by federal Trademark Registration, giving the band the exclusive rights to use the name in connection with the band's recording and performing, and possibly also as the name of a record label, publishing company and merchandise. A band name is a "service mark", meaning that it distinguishes the services of the provider (ie: musical entertainment) from services provided by others.

    Very few bands make legal arrangements for which individual in the band retains control of the service mark in the event that the partnership (eg: the original lineup of the band)that registered the service mark dissolves. Hence the lawsuits and legal contention when a band splits and multiple members decide to use the same service mark (band name). In these cases, a judge would determine which claim to control of the service mark had more validity, using similar criteria to how fans might decide it -- who's been with the band longest, who has more original members, who did the bulk of the songwriting, whose singing/playing was the most distinct identifier of the band. The band members might also choose to negotiate who retains the rights to the band name -- I know there have been instances where exclusive rights for band name use were traded for adjustment on royalties, for instance.
     
  5. mj_patrick

    mj_patrick Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elkhart, IN, USA
    ...or buys out the remaining share(s)...
     
  6. MikeM

    MikeM Senior Member

    Location:
    Youngstown, Ohio
    It would be lovely if these cases were decided based on the criteria of your penultimate sentence.

    But some bands aren't nearly that lucky. Rights to the name "The Vogues" for all but a tiny portion of Pennsylvania are owned by someone who has no connection whatsoever to the individuals who made Vogues records...just as the people who appear on stage as "The Vogues" have nothing to do with the people who made the records.

    I don't know all the details of how it came about, but it's all perfectly legal...and perfectly pathetic.

    A similar situation exists with "The Shangri-las."
     
  7. Cassiel

    Cassiel Sonic Reducer

    Location:
    NYC, USA
    Just like any other trademark, a band name can be bought/sold, transferred as part of a settlement, or signed away, particularly if a shifty contract and naive musicians are involved. If I could get Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and Olivia Harrison to sign the appropriate paperwork, I could conceivably call my band "The Beatles".
     
  8. seed_drill

    seed_drill Senior Member

    Location:
    Tryon, NC, USA
    Many groups that were put together, or merely renamed, by management are in a situation where management owns the name. This was true of most Motown acts, The Drifters, and I'd guess the Coasters or the examples you identified above.

    For whatever reason, this seemed to be very common for R&B vocal groups, but is the exception in rock and roll. One exception would be the 30 year battle over the rights to Moby Grape. Michael Katz was pissed that Jefferson Airplane escaped from his management company and were able to move to RCA, so he resolved to control band name rights to any future acts he signed (per an old Goldmine interview), thus the fights with Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day.

    Another example, involving a different Katz, would be the Katzenbaum-Katz bubblegum groups on Buddah (with the exception of The Ohio Express, which had a hit before they signed with them).
     
  9. mbleicher1

    mbleicher1 Tube Amp Curmudgeon

    Location:
    California
    I'm not too familiar with the history of Beach Boys litigation, but how come Mike Love, and not Brian Wilson, gets to use the Beach Boys name? Does BW not want it? Seems like an interesting test case of this.

    I don't want to spark a massive tangent, but a hypothetical: what if the Stones had a Beach Boys-esque scenario on their hands, with Mick and Keith both wanting to use the Stones 'brand' independently of each other?
     
  10. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Use can play a role -- one maxim where trademarks are concerned is "Use it or lose it." Indeed, to maintain the registration on a mark, the owner must periodically file affidavits with the Patent and Trademark Office to demonstrate it is still using it.

    If not registered, the user has common-law trademark rights (you'll see these denoted by the TM symbol rather than the circled R). Again, if you can demonstrate you're a consistent user of the name, it gives you some protection against an interloper.

    Some of the more notorious cases (Platters, Drifters) involve a group's management controlling the name.
     
  11. reechie

    reechie Senior Member

    Location:
    Baltimore
    Let me see if I'm close to getting this right. "The Beach Boys" is owned by Brother Records, the company owned by the members of the band. Mike Love leased the rights to use the name "The Beach Boys" for his version of the band from Brother Records. Brian agreed to this arrangement, as he apparently has no interest in billing his performances as "The Beach Boys".

    Of course, there was a complication when Al Jardine went on tour as "Beach Boys Family And Friends", resulting in the predictable lawsuits, which he lost. Based on that, Mike Love is the only member who is allowed to use the name "The Beach Boys" currently.
     
  12. Cassiel

    Cassiel Sonic Reducer

    Location:
    NYC, USA
    The Stones have been an independent financial entity for so long, and represent such huge amounts of money-making potential, that I'm certain the lawyers have been called in by this point and it's all specified on paper as to who can use the name if members split/die/quit.
     
  13. mr.schneider

    mr.schneider Active Member

    Location:
    N. Beechwood Dr.
    If your lucky, as in the case of The Monkees, a corporation owns the name.
    At this point in time, I don't think any one of them really care about associating themselves with the name anyhow. Easy circumstance. Case closed.
    Which ones would exploit the name if givan a chance... Jones and Dolenz.

    The Beach Boys are another nightmare entirely. Now you have 2 dead guys that have a stake in the name. Yikesamighty.
     
  14. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    The Stones have probably been canny enough to spell this stuff out in contracts.

    Here's an interesting article by attorney Ivan Hoffman that includes a bit about the Beach Boys fiasco. It appears that Brother Records owned the name, and the band's members were directors of Brother Records Inc. If they went off on a side project and wanted to use "Beach Boys" as part of the name, they had to be licensed by Brother Records to do so. When Al Jardine decided to tour as Beach Boys Family and Friends, it was said he had such a licence, but there was no written documentation to support the claim.

    A defence of fair use was rejected because, on the one hand, it was clear that he didn't mean Beach Boys as "boys who frequent a stretch of sand by the sea," but in direct reference to the band he was a former member of. Also, the use suggested the endorsement of the Beach Boys.

    Mike Love, unlike Brian Wilson or Al Jardine, never left the group. So, he's the one with the right to tour with other musicians as "The Beach Boys."
     
  15. dirwuf

    dirwuf Temporarily Misplaced Chicagoan

    Location:
    Fairfield, CT
    Can someone detail some of the squabbles over the use of "The Monkees" name...I remember back in the eighties there was a dispute over whether the name could be used on the "That Was Then, This Is Now" single. And exactly when did the band members get control of the name?

    edit..I see some of this has been addressed above
     



  16. Actually your examples are quite easily mediated by a thoughtful judge. In the case of the Rolling Stones, one member gets the right to name a band The Rollings and the other member gets legal right to name a band The Stones. Of course there might still be an argument over the use of the word "the," but you know what Bill Clinton said about that.
     
  17. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Here's another article by Hoffman.

    http://www.ivanhoffman.com/names.html

    He identifies three key areas of concern: the band's internal relationships, its relationship with the record company, and with other third parties.

    Regarding the band's internal dealings:
    He advises that new acts draw up an agreement covering what happens if the band breaks up or if one or more members leaves.

    A record contract will give the label a non-exclusive right to use the name in connection with the band's recordings. He suggests that, without a partnership agreement among the band members, the label could end up controlling the name should the band break up.

    In the third category, he suggests that agents or managers are parties that may end up in control of the name in the absence of a partnership agreement.
     
  18. reechie

    reechie Senior Member

    Location:
    Baltimore
    That was more a case of Davy Jones not wanting to be a part of the recording of "That Was Then, This Is Now", and insisting that the record shouldn't be called "The Monkees" without him. To appease him, the billing was changed to "Micky Dolenz And Peter Tork Of The Monkees". It wasn't really up to Jones, Arista Records had permission, but to keep the peace for that summer's reunion tour, they gave in to him.

    Back in '86, David Fishoff leased the name "The Monkees" from Columbia Pictures, who owned it at the time, and proceeded to put together the 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour. "The Monkees" name at the time was a dead issue, nobody really wanted it. Then suddenly, the whole MTV thing happened, the tour was a hit, and Columbia Pictures suddenly had a hot property on their hands. From that point on, as long as they owned the name, they made it a little harder for anyone to do anything with the name "The Monkees".

    Eventually, Bob Rafelson and Burt Schneider sued Columbia (not sure of the exact reasons), with the result being that the name and rights to "The Monkees" was awarded back to them. They later sold the name to Rhino Records, who in turn were absorbed by Warner Brothers, who currently own the name.
     
  19. Yeah to the best of my knowledge none of The Monkees ever owned the band name it was always owned by a corporation (unless things have changed) and Rhino currently owns the name along with the recordings of the band.

    on a side note I don't know if Peter Tork is billing his current band as related to The Monkees. I'm amazed given his fight with cancer that he is still touring.
     
  20. tomd

    tomd Senior Member

    Location:
    Brighton,Colorado
    Yep
     
  21. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al Senior Member

    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    I would seriously doubt that there would ever be a dispute over The Rolling Stones name... after all, Jagger and Richards names are already a trademark with a reputation and value of their own. Charlie Watts remains a very wealthy man, and I cant see him ever claming to be the Stones. Wyman was taken care of along time ago, and you know Ron Wood will never get a piece of that action.

    I may not have this exactly correct, but I believe at one point Yes decided that they should control their name, and created Yes LLC. Originally this was owned by Squire, Anderson, Howe, Wakeman and White. Since the formation of the original agreement, both Wakeman and Anderson have sold their portion back to the other three. Apparently, this was a business deal in good faith as Squire has recently claimed that Anderson is still a member of Yes, and they are using Wakemans son on keyboards now. It is interesting, however, that Anderson would really have no legal say abot them touring with a different singer...
     
  22. reechie

    reechie Senior Member

    Location:
    Baltimore
    His current project is called "Shoe Suede Blues Band". Mostly original songs, he only plays a few Monkees tunes.

    It's probably therapeutic for him to continue performing through his illness, as long as he feels up to it.
     
  23. reechie

    reechie Senior Member

    Location:
    Baltimore
    As is the current situation. Anderson originally made some critical comments about the band's choice to tour last year without him, and with a substitute singer, but he apparently later retracted them.
     
  24. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    At some point, Ron was upgraded from hired gun to partner, or something similar, iirc.
     
  25. ElevatorSkyMovie

    ElevatorSkyMovie Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oklahoma
    That's the reason Bad Company got back together last year and played some dates, so they wouldn't lose the name.
     
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