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Beef Of The Week #422: Heaven’s Gate v Lil Uzi Vert

By | Published on Friday 21 September 2018

Lil Uzi Vert

The slow rollout of rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s second album ‘Eternal Atake’ has been interesting for the mystery surrounding it. Although more so because of the repeated legal threats from Heaven’s Gate. You know how much we love a bit of copyright litigation around here.

Heaven’s Gate is the US-based religious cult that became famous in 1997 when its members took their own lives in a mass suicide. That event occurred as the Hale-Bopp comet passed near the planet. The cult believed that behind the comet was a UFO that would transport them to a new level of existence. Reckoning that the Earth was on the verge of being “recycled”, they thought that through killing their human bodies, they would be able to catch a lift with the hidden spacecraft.

All of the group’s members being dead would make it difficult for them to subsequently hire lawyers more than 20 years later. Unless they were able to contact Earth-based attorneys from up on that spaceship. But no, while 39 members of the cult did take their lives in 1997, some stayed behind. In a quite admirable piece of forward thinking, two in particular remained in order to maintain the organisation’s website, ensuring that their message would still be available until such time that humanity was wiped out, as per their prophecy.

That website remains online to this day, preserved exactly as it was in 1997. There, anyone can access information on Heaven’s Gate’s beliefs, watch videos warning of the consequences of not joining them in evacuating the planet, download or buy their book, and look at the group’s very striking logo.

One person who’s taken a particular shine to that logo is Lil Uzi Vert. In July, he revealed the artwork for ‘Eternal Atake’, which closely mimics the Heaven’s Gate image, right down to the tagline beneath it.

In their artwork, Heaven’s Gate guarantee: “As was promised – the keys to Heaven’s Gate are here again in Ti and Do (The UFO Two) as they were in Jesus and his Father 2000 yrs ago”.

Lil Uzi, meanwhile, offers: “As was promised – the keys to Eternal Atake are here again in Luv and Rage (The UFO 2) as Lil Uzi Vert and his Father 2000 yrs ago”.

The similarity was noticed by many, not least the surviving members of Heaven’s Gate. In a statement, they told Genius: “He is using and adapting our copyrights and trademarks without our permission and the infringement will be taken up with our attorneys. This is not fair use or parody, it is a direct and clear infringement”.

Ever since, legal reps for Heaven’s Gate have reportedly been attempting to reach a settlement with the rapper. Then on Tuesday, he released the first single from the album, ‘New Patek’, the artwork for which features a keyhole symbol similar to that of the religious group’s logo.

Might this mean that the two parties had come to some sort of agreement? Nope. Of course not. Despite claims by Heaven’s Gate to the contrary, the rapper’s legal team are adamant that their client’s mimicry of the cult’s logo is definitely allowed under the fair use provisions of US copyright law.

Asked for comment by the New York Post, a Heaven’s Gate spokesperson said: “Our attorneys are working with him on direct and clear infringement of trademarks, copyrights and use of logo”.

They continued: “We are also dealing with expressions of ‘fair use’, which is cited when this kind of image is displayed. The artist has to be careful to not make full use of the spirit and meaning of the group while altering images of it to make it look like he isn’t infringing. We will see what can be sorted out. It is in the hands of attorneys”.

You’d think that people who’d spent the last two decades or so convinced that all humanity was about to be destroyed would have bigger things to worry about than protecting their intellectual property. But I suppose it’s important to have principles, even in the face of imminent Armageddon. I’m sure Taylor Swift will still be trademarking her lyrics in the midst of the rapture.

The rapper and his team have not commented publicly on all this, so we’re left to scour his tweets and lyrics for hints about what he’s thinking.

Back at the beginning of August, he tweeted: “I never really worry because I will definitely transfer to another body. Please come with me”, adding Milky Way and flying saucer emojis. So I guess that means he’s aware of Heaven’s Gate’s work, beyond their logo design skills. Although I think they’ve been quite clear that the opportunity to transfer has long since passed.

Other than that, I went through the lyrics of ‘New Patek’ and found this: “And she said ‘Lil Uzi so great, how you deal with all that hate?’ Shut up, bitch, don’t give me migraine”.

So I think you could say that my research has been inconclusive.