Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rock bands sue Rolling Stone Magazine over ad

Alameda County Superior Court RG07361627

James Stewart, Devin Hoff and Caralee McElroy, for and performing with and under the name of Xiu Xiu; Michael Haliechuk, Damian Abraham, Sandy Miranda, for and performing with and under the name Fucked Up, for themselves and as representatives of a class of musical artists v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Rolling Stone LLC; Wenner Media LLC

Two indie bands have filed a class action accusing Rolling Stone and Wenner Media of wrongfully featuring their names, along with the names of 150 other artists and bands, in a November 2007 advertisement for Camel cigarettes.

Members of the San Francisco-based experimental rock group Xiu Xiu and the Toronto punk band Fucked Up say they never gave the publishers or Camel-maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco permission to use their names in the multi-page advertisement.

The ad was featured in Rolling Stone’s 40th anniversary issue as part of an illustrated foldout poster entitled “Indie Rock Universe.” The poster appeared to be a special editorial for indie music lovers, but plaintiffs say it was actually a “carefully designed and executed marketing and advertising pitch for Camel cigarettes.”

Names of bands such as Radiohead and Daft Punk appeared alongside a Camel logo, a surgeon general’s warning and a banner listing Camel’s Web site for Farm Rocks, an online campaign that purportedly advocates independent record labels.

Plaintiffs seek an order enjoining defendants from using their names in ads and requiring Rolling Stone to publish an admission that it used the names without permission. The musicians also want defendants to pay $750 for each name listed on every issue sold. The Daily Swarm speculates that the full award, if granted, could total more than $195 billion.

R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel cigarettes, faces another lawsuit over a similar ad it ran in Rolling Stone using cartoons to promote Farm Rocks. The attorneys general of nine states claim R.

J. Reynolds violated a 1998 master settlement agreement that bars the cigarette maker from targeting children with its ads.But plaintiffs claim R.J. Reynolds has a long history of targeting youth, though its addictive products “regularly sicken, debilitate and kill their users in the millions.”

Causes of action: Unauthorized use of artists’ names; unauthorized use of artist names for commercial advantage; unfair business practices

Filing counsel:
Christopher Hunt and Duyen Nguyen of Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller (San Francisco)