The Grammy award winning band, Black Keys, has filed lawsuits in California against Pizza Hut and Home Depot for using their music in commercials without permission. Black Keys claims that a Pizza Hut commercial “prominently features significant portions” of their song “Gold on the Ceiling” and that a Home Depot commercial for Ryobi power tools uses parts of their song “Lonely Boy.”
Using portions of an original, copyrighted work requires permission from the copyright owner. Permission is required if part of the original sound recording is used, or if a section of the music is re-recorded. From what I was able to dig up on YouTube …it sounds like Pizza Hut used a recognizable portion of the song “Gold on the Ceiling” …the tempo and groove sound similar… there might be slight variations in the riff… although it certainly sounds like the jingle is trying to mimic the song (Take a listen: the ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkaGEgjWdNI and the band’s video of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yCIDkFI7ew ). Facts about the portion of the song that has been used will play heavily into the development of this case and a possible settlement. This will include evaluating the originality, amount and specific portion of the misappropriated music. (Black Keys “wins/bargaining power increases” if, the music is original and has been copied). (Pizza Hut “wins/bargaining power increases” if, the music in question is not original or has not been copied).
As I’m sure you can guess, payment is generally a central issue in this type of dispute. Now that these lawsuits have been filed, it is likely that Black Keys and the two corporate brands, Pizza Hut and Home Depot, are already discussing a settlement payment and licensing arrangement for use of the music. (These types of cases often settle).
See also: The cases: Auerbach v. Pizza Hut, 12-05385, and Auerbach v. Home Depot, 2:12-cv-05386, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles), http://www.theblackkeys.com/, http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2012/07/02/pizza-hut-home-depot-sued-by-rock-stars/, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-22/black-keys-rock-duo-sues-pizza-hut-home-depot-over-songs.html, @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.