Sue Sue, Sue-dio: The Ten Most Interesting Lawsuits In Music History

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The finger-pointing game has begun in the wake of this year's Electric Daisy Carnival. 

Although any legal repercussions in regards to the festival that took place this weekend have yet to be determined, we're keeping our eye on the whole thing -- mostly because, let's face it, music and legal action are frequent bedfellows.

The biggest music lawsuit saw far this year? It involves Eminem's song "Lose Yourself," and the Chrysler corporation using it for commercials. Audi's new commercials, turns out, feature a strikingly similar song -- and Em's people have decided to duke the whole matter out in court.

Lawsuits just happen -- perhaps more than ever before in our now very litigious present. Some have merit, sure. But others are just plain frivolous. Those that gain notoriety usually do so because of size, ridiculousness or odd subject matter.

Either way, we've decided to take a look at the top 10 most interesting music lawsuits of all time. We had a lot to choose from. But these are the legal proceedings that are accompanied by the best stories.

10. Mattel v. Aqua, 1997. Aqua's hit "Barbie Girl" was all over the radio that year, and Mattel took notice -- and offense. Claiming that the lyrics, which describe Barbie as a "blonde bimbo," tarnished Barbie's image and infringed upon copyright, Mattel sued. The case was promptly dismissed, though; a judge in the case stated, no joke, "the parties are advised to chill."

9. Slipknot v. Burger King, 2005. When Burger King released an ad featuring a heavy metal band made up of chickens wearing masks (dubiously dubbed "Coq Roq"), Slipknot threatened legal action -- because they are of course the only band to ever don masks*.  Burger King responded with legal action of their own, demanding that a Miami federal court exempt them from any lawsuits, from Slipknot or anyone else, over the Coq Roq ad.

(* For those too dim to realize that we're kidding, we officially state that we are, in fact, kidding. Don't sue us, please. We're writers, and we're broke. )

8. Jackson Browne v. Ohio Republican Party, 2008. Ohio Republicans should've seen this one coming, as Browne has famously campaigned for left-wing political candidates for years.  And yet, despite this being fairly common knowledge, the Ohio Republican Party put out an anti-Obama television ad in 2008 that played Browne's "Running on Empty" in the background. Browne sued, of course. He also won.

7. Joe Jackson v. pretty much everyone, 2009-ongoing. Michael Jackson had barely been buried before his estranged father began suing everyone within reach. Joe Jackson sued Dr. Conrad Murray, AEG Entertainment, Michael's estate and probably a few more people, too. The legal proceedings were given a collective side-eye by the world at large, due to the fact that Joe's relationship with his son was strained at best. At press time, Joe Jackson is himself being sued for releasing a perfume with Michael's name on it. Will the litigious madness ever end? Probably not. Michael's life was a circus; his death has been no different.

6. GAYNGS v. C.J. Starbuses, 2010. When indie-rock supergroup GAYNGS stopped for the night en route to their gig at Austin City Limits in 2010, they woke to find their tour bus -- and all the equipment in it -- missing. Understandably, the band freaked out, assuming that the bus had been stolen. They were forced to cancel their ACL gig as a result. Turns out what really happened was a bizarre chain of events that began when GAYNGS were late in paying their bill to C.J. Starbuses, the company that owned their bus. As a result, the company called their driver in the wee hours of the morning and ordered him to drive the bus back to the company's Nashville headquarters without notifying the band. GAYNGS, in turn, sued -- and won a six-figure settlement. 


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4 comments
TheMapman
TheMapman

What about Huey Lewis and the News suing over the Ghostbusters song being a blatant rip-off of "I Want a New Drug"?

Allan H
Allan H

I'd like to apply for an honorable mention by way of localness for our band (including myself, Colin McCarty and Ted O'Loughlin of the Mumbles, and Trey Johnson) SPAM which was sued by the Hormel corporation for infringing on their famous trademark. Eventually we gave up fighting it and change our name to (the even worse) Crackbox. But it was still fun.

Here's the blurb about it in SPIN: http://books.google.com/books?...

Here's a reference to the Dallas Observer's 1986 coverage of it in a 1999 article: http://www.dallasobserver.com/...

Laura
Laura

That's awesome!  Even better than the (reported) lawsuit against REO Speed Dealer by REO Speedwagon (the former apparently changed their name to simply Speed Dealer - Kathleen Turner had a better sense of humor & allowed Kathleen Turner Overdrive to keep their name.)

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