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Violent Femmes Turn on Each Other

The 1980s are officially over. Well, I guess they were over 17 years ago, but don’t tell my CD collection that.

Brian Ritchie, bassist for the Violent Femmes, filed suit against vocalist Gordon Gano in the Southern District of New York claiming that he did not receive proper songwriting credit for some of the band’s works, and that (this makes me want to puke) Gano allowed the song, Blister in the Sun to be used in a Wendy’s commercial.

This action is the unfortunate culmination of an ongoing intra-band dispute between Ritchie and Gano over Gano’s misappropriation and misadministration of Ritchie’s interests in the jointly owned songs and assets of the band, misappropriation of assets solely owned by Ritchie, improper accounting and non-payment of royalties.(source)

I am really not terribly interested in the songwriting credit issue. What perks me up about this case is that a band member is finally striking back when another band member turns an iconic song into bubblegum advertising dreck. (I will never get over hearing Lust for Life in a Cruise Line commercial).

I’d imagine that Gano probably wasn’t even the copyright holder at the time of the sell-out. Nevertheless, this does raise a theory that I have fumbled around with for a while. I’d love to see a moral-rights based initiative to stop this kind of crime against culture. In the end, Ritchie gets his share of the Wendy’s money – but it would be far more lovely if he were able to actually get injunctive relief to stop the use, wouldn’t it? Naturally, Gano should be entitled to whatever money he would have gotten from Wendy’s, and Wendy’s should get their money back, so the financial cost to Ritchie (If I such a scheme ever went into play) would be significant. Even better, I call for an “Intellectual Property Eminent Domain Statute,” where the public is allowed to purchase the IP rights to a particular work for the greater good. If the government can appropriate a piece of land with public funds for the greater good, then why shouldn’t the government be able to mandate a process whereby the public can, through private donations, purchase iconic works to allow them to pass into the public domain?

People wonder why I don’t have cable. I don’t want advertising beamed into my house. This is part of the reason why. I skipped my 20th high school reunion last weekend – figuring that nothing good could come from picking up the empty beer cans of 1980s memories to see if there were any slopers left. To hear that “Blister in the Sun” is in a Wendy’s commercial confirms that both decisions were correct.

The case is on Pacer, Ritchie v. Gano 1:07-cv-07269-VM (S.D.N.Y), but the complaint doesn’t seem to have been uploaded yet.

If anyone is looking for me for the next few days, I will be sitting in a corner watching VHS tapes of Repo Man and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, mumbling and muttering incoherently to myself. (Violent Femmes in a Wendys Commercial…. Curtis Mayfield in a car commercial…. Iggy Pop selling the same crap as Cathy Lee…. dear lord, let an asteroid hit this wretched planet before the Clash winds up in an Old Navy ad!!!)

Sloper: slop•er /sloʊpər/ –noun: A beer that someone failed to finish, but they left it out on the table all night and nobody put a cigarette out in it. Still perfectly drinkable. Frequently consumed for breakfast at the University of Massachusetts..


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