Indie rockers The Black Keys file intellectual property lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Indie rock group The Black Keys have filed an intellectual property lawsuit against a casino operations company and a music production house for alleged copyright infringement. The group’s lawsuit accuses the two companies of using music recorded by “sound-a-like” bands in advertisements that were designed to mimic the sound of the Black Keys’ hit single “Howlin’ for You”.

The use of “sound-a-like” bands has become a common problem for groups that refuse to license their music for use in advertising. Rock bands have accused advertisers of infringing on their intellectual property rights by using “sound-a-like” bands to mimic the unique qualities of their music without permission.

Unlike many “big name” acts, indie musicians are vulnerable to these tactics by advertisers because many lack the financial means to challenge the infringement of their copyright in court. Because many of the concepts behind a musical work—the group’s “sound”—are not copyrightable, it is difficult for many indie artists to summon resources to successfully defend their intellectual property rights.

The Black Keys—whose most recent album sold more than 840,000 copies and earned three Grammy awards—have been successful so far in defending their intellectual property against infringement of this kind. Last year, the group reached settlements with Pizza Hut and Home Depot over similar allegations that the companies used “sound-a-like” bands to mimic the sound of hit singles released by the Black Keys.