Sunday, August 11, 2013

Battling Beatles Tribute Bands- can you copyright a wig?

I could probably spend all of my free time reading about lawsuits involving the Beatles.  Here’s the latest.  The producers of the Broadway Beatles’ tribute show Rain have just sued the producers of another Broadway tribute show, Let It Be alleging copyright infringement among other cause of action.  The complaint apparently claims that the second production contains similar musical arrangements, between song patter, background artwork and (wait for it) wigs.

The lawyer in me has to ask – how can the producers of Rain claim a copyright in any of this?  It is four guys, dressed as the Beatles, acting like the Beatles, playing Beatles’ songs.

Digging into the case. I see it goes deeper than that: the producers of both shows were working together in some sort of joint venture that went bad so the suit may be more about the contractual relationship than anything else but the copyright claims are certainly odd.

From a casual observer, it seems that the world of tribute bands in general can be fairly litigious.   I came across an interesting law review article on the subject a while back:
 It almost seems like a strange kind of sub culture, but having seen more than a handful of these groups one has to appreciate the skill and work involved in learning how to replicate the Fab 4, or any other band for that matter. Still, I don’t think there is much original expression (for copyright purposes) going on here.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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