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Toni Basil goes legal over Mickey syncs

By | Published on Monday 4 September 2017

Toni Basil

Toni Basil has sued Disney and Viacom, among others, in a lawsuit over the syncing of her hit ‘Mickey’ which, she alleges, required her permission. Not only was she not consulted about the sync deals, she says, but she wasn’t even aware the track had been used in TV shows like ‘South Park’ and ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’, and for an ad campaign by American clothing chain Forever 21, until relatively recently.

Choreographer Basil, still probably best known for her 1982 hit ‘Mickey’ – a rework of a song by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn called ‘Kitty’ – is mainly taking aim at the music firm Razor & Tie, which claims to currently control her record. Though some of the companies which synced the track are also listed as defendants.

The case all centres on two old record contracts with the label that originally put out the record, UK-based Radial Choice. Basil’s lawsuit, filed in LA on Thursday, includes two main arguments. First that her contracts with Radial Choice gave her a veto over sync deals. And second that various deals that assigned and licensed the master rights in the track after Radial Choice went under in the mid-1980s were invalid.

Lawyers working for Basil say that their client has been “despondent and physically ill” since discovering the various TV programmes and ads that had featured her record. The Forever 21 sync comes in for particular criticism, because it was for a range of Disney products and therefore associated her song with Mickey Mouse. “Basil would never consent to the use of her voice, persona, image or name coupled with Disney products”, last week’s lawsuit states.

It’s not the only reference to Basil’s persona and image being exploited in the syncs, ie in addition to the copyright in the record. “Basil’s brand and identity is intertwined with her song ‘Mickey'”, the legal papers argue. “Basil is protective of her brand, and her signature song is known as a cheerleading anthem and an 80s one hit wonder. A reasonable consumer would be lead to believe Basil had approved and/or endorsed [any programme or product using the record]”.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial, and seeks both damages and an injunction blocking future exploitation of ‘Mickey’ without Basil’s consent.