And Finally Artist News Business News Legal

Bill Murray responds to Doobie Brothers’ copyright infringement claim

By | Published on Monday 28 September 2020

Bill Murray

Bill Murray’s attorney has responded to a cease-and-desist letter sent to his client by a legal rep for the Doobie Brothers last week. Although, disappointingly, his response is far less amusing than the original correspondence, despite his best attempts. It’s almost as if being funny isn’t a lawyer’s job.

The new letter – sent by Alexander Yoffe of Yoffe & Cooper LLP – also doesn’t entirely address the key concerns of that sent by the Doobie Brothers’ attorney Peter Paterno.

Joking aside, Paterno was accusing Murray’s company William Murray Golf of using the Doobie Brothers song ‘Listen To The Music’ in adverts for golf shirts without permission. In his reply, Yoffe concentrates more on the fact that, as part of that complaint, Paterno called those shirts “ugly”.

“Your negative comments about [the shirts’] fashionableness are especially disconcerting to all of us”, Yoffe writes. “Especially considering 75% of my wardrobe consists of William Murray polos, shorts and pants. Colour me biased, but the consensus of this side of the table is that Bill and [his] brothers have some of the most clever and creative lifestyle wear available”.

He concludes by suggesting that Paterno supply shirt sizes for himself and the members of the Doobie Brothers “along with which of our client’s shirts you find least offensive and we will happily upgrade your wardrobes and hopefully win each of you over as new fans of the brand”.

Whether or not they like the shirts isn’t really the point though. Putting music in adverts without permission is copyright infringement regardless.

Yoffe does suggest that the two lawyers get together behind closed doors to “pour one up and unwind with a listen of the recently-released ‘Quadio’ box set and plan to cross paths at a Doobie Brothers 50th anniversary show in 2021 when some level of normalcy returns”.

He also seems to cite the ‘Blurred Lines’ plagiarism case as proof that Murray’s company has not infringed any copyright, even though that’s not really relevant in any way at all. But, see, another partner at Paterno’s law firm is Howard King, who worked for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams on that famous song-theft legal battle.

“I am sure”, Yoffe writes, “that Howard King of your firm, who argued that the song ‘Blurred Lines’ did not infringe on Marvin Gaye’s composition ‘Got To Give It Up’, would agree that your client was not harmed in this case”.

King did indeed argue that no copyright infringement had occurred in that case, of course. But the only way the comparison makes any sense is if Yoffe is arguing that the song in Murray’s advert is not ‘Listen To The Music’, but another song that has the same “vibe”. Which he isn’t.

And even if he was, Paterno also claimed in his original letter that William Murray Golf was using other songs by clients of his firm without permission too.

Anyway, some lawyers wrote some letters trying to show off their comedy chops, and now they’ll probably do some actual lawyering behind closed doors. Bill Murray hasn’t commented on this publicly, but remains funny anyway.