The Black Keys Settle Lawsuit Over Advertising Rip-Offs

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The Black Keys Settle Lawsuit Over Advertising Rip-Offs

As originally reported back in June, Ohio based blues-rockers The Black Keys have been at odds with the uncanny resemblance of the music found in advertisements from pizza chain Pizza Hut and DIY hardware store Home Depot to tunes from their 2011 record El Camino.

Now the band have confirmed that they have officially settled their legal claim for copyright infringement, in a surprisingly quick turnaround, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Highlighting the similarity between their 2011 chart topping hits ‘Lonely Boy’ and ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ to jingles used in Pizza Hut and Home Depot adverts, the duo sought unspecified damages to the value of $US 75,000 as well as an agreement to discontinue the music’s use in the companies respective commercials.

While both companies originally denied copying the songs, court filings from the band accused the commercials as “a brazen and improper effort to capitalise on plaintiffs’ hard-earned success”.

Long time producer Danger Mouse, who produced The Black Keys’ 2010 album Brothers and El Camino from which the songs being mimicked are taken, followed suit and sued the same two companies with similar claims.

Thus far, no party has commented on the terms of the agreement, nor have the details on the settlement been disclosed.

“Our buddies who play keyboards and bass with us… they were getting requests from music supervisors asking for songs that sound like the Black Keys.” – Patrick Carney, drummer

Speaking to LA Times pop music critic Randall Roberts, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney spoke of the rampant infringement exercised by the advertising industry, explaining, “It’s common, and the thing is, a lot of our friends – even John [Wood] and Gus [Seyffert], our buddies who play keyboards and bass with us… they were getting requests from music supervisors asking for songs that sound like the Black Keys without the supervisors even knowing that they were in the band,” says Carney.

“And [John and Gus] kept going off, because a lot of music supervisors that I’m friends with are like, ‘you’re the No. 1 requested band right now by advertising agencies to have sound-alikes’,” continues Carney. “There’s this one song called ‘Howler,’ which is made by a music supervision firm – a jingle house, basically. It’s called ‘Howler,’ and it’s just [Black Keys track] ‘Howlin’ for You’ verbatim.”

This kind of practice is unfortunately commonplace, and not strictly limited to the most successful or popular acts in the industry.

While some receive generous pay-offs, as local Canberra band Tonk did when they discovered their songs were used not once but twice in the popular US sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Many more find their work plagiarised or used without permission.

UK indie act Wu Lyf were left fuming after one of their songs was used in a ‘sexist’ ad for Toyota without their consent. Even a most polite declination by Beach House over the use of their music wouldn’t satisfy. An ad agency persisted for weeks to use the dream pop duo’s “Take Care” in a Volkswagen commercial to no avail. So they did the next best (/worst) thing they could think of and created their own version of the track instead.

Many Aussie musicians have fallen victim to dodgy rip-offs and refused payouts, including John Butler Trio’s ‘Zebra’ being ripped off by a Superbowl commercial selling yoghurt, The Grates’ ‘Aw Yeah’ used to peddle Weet-Bix and GOD’s 1987 debut ‘My Pal’ closely referenced by Mercedes Benz.

However, the Black Keys’ persistence has shown that musicians do in fact have a foot to stand on when they refuse to allow their artistic integrity be compromised in order to flog the taste revolution that is “Cheesy Bites Pizza”.


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