Black Keys sue again over ad song use

By | Published on Thursday 24 January 2013

The Black Keys

The Black Keys have launched new litigation against an advertiser for allegedly using the band’s music in promotional videos without permission.

As previously reported, the US duo sued both Pizza Hut and Home Depot last year over similar allegations, with both suits being ultimately settled out of court. The latest target for The Black Keys’ lawyers is Pinnacle Entertainment, which runs casinos in the US and which is accused of using the band’s song ‘Howlin For You’, or something incredibly similar to it, in two ad spots last autumn.

When challenged about using Black Keys tracks in its ads by the band’s fans on the social networks last year, Pinnacle responded by saying their ad featuring “a licensed track inspired by ‘Howlin For You’ by The Black Keys”, adding that “we bought a licensed musical interpretation of the [original] song”.

It’s no secret that ad agencies sometimes commission new musical works that are incredibly similar to existing tracks if they can’t secure the rights in a favoured song (or can’t afford to). The legalities of such a practice are a bit of a grey area, and usually when artists whose works are mimicked in this way cry foul, an out-of-court settlement prevents any judicial consideration on the matter.

But in their latest lawsuit The Black Keys note Pinnacle’s expected defence, but argue that even if the music in the casino firm’s ads was a sound-a-like to their work, the defendant is still liable for trademark violation and unfair competition. If it were to get to court, that would make for a very interesting hearing. Chances are it won’t though. Although yet to comment, beyond its earlier social networking remarks, it will be no surprise if Pinnacle quietly settle on this.