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Exposing Fake Bands: The Truth in Music Bill

If you travel to Vegas, you'll see that the Sahara casino offers nightly shows by The Platters, The Drifters and The Coasters, three of the legendary doo-wop groups of the 50s. But advocates for Truth in Music laws say those groups have no right to bill themselves under those names, that they are not the original musicians known by those names but rather are merely imposter groups.

Virginia's legislature is considering an effort to make it illegal to mislead consumers by selling tickets to a concert unless the band either includes original members of the group or holds the copyright to the group's name. The Virginia bill is sponsored by Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax), who is a self-described 70s metalhead who leads a band of legislator-rockers called Planet Albo. I kid you not.

Albo is carrying the water of a nationwide movement spearheaded by former Sha Na Na singer Jon "Bowzer" Bauman to make impostor bands illegal.

Albo's bill--HB-1969, believe it or not--made it through committee last week in a breeze. Next: the full House.

It's a reasonable cause, though I'm not sure the penalties are aimed at the right place: Should venues bear the brunt of the penalty, or should the target be the artists and promoters who try to pull one over on unsuspecting fans? Still, as a symbolic show of support for the original artists--and especially those musicians who performed in an era when bands routinely got the shaft while the promoters raked in the dough--this is a good gesture.

Now, about that transportation problem....

By Marc Fisher |  January 18, 2007; 7:36 AM ET
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Reminds me of the time that my wife and I went to Meriweather Post to see Lynyrd Skynyrd. When they came out, she said:
"This can't be Lynyrd Skynyrd....Lynyrd Skynyrd is dead!"

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2007 9:05 AM

A group's name can be trademarked, not copyrighted. How long have you been a journalist, Fisher? Anyway, there are plenty of trademark laws out there already.

Posted by: bkp | January 18, 2007 9:13 AM

What is the band doing on Planet Albo? Playing with themselves?

Exactly how many people have been "misled" by the names Platters, Inkspots, etc.? My guess is that if anyone is misled by these names, then there is no law on earth that will protect them against their own ignorance or naivete. Of course, the few that are dumb enough to be misled have been elected to public office.

Is this the problem in Virginia that we need our state legislators to solve? Can Planet Alba turn their attention to some real problems like transportation, employment, social welfare, public education?

Posted by: KK | January 18, 2007 9:44 AM

Ummmm...not everyone from the original band died in the plane crash - I last saw them in 1992 with the remaining members. From Wikipedia: In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle and former guitarist Ed King. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter.

They and many other bands have not tried to disguise the fact that they are not the same line-up as they were originally and have the copyright to use the name. I think this legislation is a good thing though for groups would try to do that.

Posted by: Re: Lynyrd Skynyrd | January 18, 2007 10:11 AM

Sorry, should have said "trademark", not "copyright" in my post above - thanks bkp

Posted by: Re: Lynyrd Skynyrd | January 18, 2007 10:13 AM

Why is the Virginia legislature even debating this? I thought patent, trademark, and copyright disputes were handled in federal forums.

Posted by: Alexandria | January 18, 2007 10:28 AM

I'm all for what this bill represents, but it's intriguing to note that had something like this existed in New York in 1959, the group the Five Crowns could not have been called the Drifters after the original group broke up. (The Drifters' manager, George Treadwell, had a contract for them to appear at the Apollo Theater for several more years, hence the new group, which became far more popular than the originals.)

P.S. R.I.P., "Pookie" Hudson. Goodnight, it's time to go.

Posted by: Vincent | January 18, 2007 10:30 AM

Patent and Copyright laws are exclusively federal issues. Trademark laws are covered on both federal and state levels. In addition, there could be other issues, like rights of publicity or false advertising, that the states can regulate that may cover situations such as this.

Posted by: Washington, D.C. | January 18, 2007 10:34 AM

Perhaps people will think differently when someone starts another band called the Rolling Stones, or Aerosmith without anybody who was part of the band. Seriously though, if somebody is claiming to be someone they are not, it is just wrong! I can see if the band had original members- sure- bands split and rotate people on and off all the time and should not have to change the name, but if you can not trace it back to the original with a solid chain, it would be wrong to claim to be someone you are not and get publicity off of someone elses credibility.

Posted by: Chris | January 18, 2007 10:34 AM

The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith can adequately protect their rights under existing law. They don't need this piece of fluff that is drifting from Planet Alba.

Posted by: KK | January 18, 2007 11:07 AM

i guess it depend on what your definition of various bands are. take a band like genesis. is the band still genesis even tho the original members have long since cycled through. was it genesis before peter gabriel? was the band still genesis after gabriel left? what about the group "yes". take a group like ac/dc. the lead singer who replaced bon scott has been the lead singer far longer than bon scott ever was. does that mean that ac/dc with bon scott wasn't really ac/dc?

i don't remember the ins & outs exactly but didn't morrisey (sp?) try something like this with the smiths. if i remember correctly he claimed that as the lead singer he was the band and the other members of the band were just musicians.

Posted by: quark | January 18, 2007 12:00 PM

This is not a new problem. In the early 70's there was a Bill Pinkney's Drifters, as well as other groups using that name. Same with any number of Flamingos, Platters, and on and on. If they bill themselves as original and they are not, then they should be in trouble, but otherwise, as others have said, let's worry about real problems.

Posted by: Joe | January 18, 2007 12:08 PM

Seriously, what's wrong with our legislature? First we're going to apologize to a group of people for something that some of our ancestors did to some of their ancestors, even though such an apology is meaningless without remorse and we can't be remorseful for something we didn't do, and now this? You'd think there wasn't anything important going on.

Posted by: dlc | January 18, 2007 1:15 PM

As someone who enjoys a lot of oldies music I think this is a real and valid problem. the late drummer from the Byrds lived in the Outer Banks and toured in Northern Virginia as "The Byrds" several times before he got sued. They were listed, I called to confirm who was in the band, and got a suddenly nervous booking agent on the other end. It shouldn't be this hard and I think this is a great small issue to address.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 18, 2007 1:17 PM

First we're going to apologize to a group of people for something that some of our ancestors did to some of their ancestors, even though such an apology is meaningless without remorse and we can't be remorseful for something we didn't do, and now this?
----------

OK, how's this. the lingering effects of slavery, jim Crow and Red-lining, meant that people who bought houses in the 1920s, 40s, and 60s bought in segregated neighborhoods. Those that were segregated as white's only increased in value more than integrated neighborhoods due to significant red-lining of loans. Therefore there are 1, 2 and 3 generations of inheritances given to white children YEARS after slavery that were the direct result of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation even though the kids did not contribute directly to slavery, they profited from it tremendously. Case in point, I had a friend in high school whose great-grandfather owned thousands of acres of plantation in Howard County. He sold off pieces to developers and sent all his kids to medical or law school. My friend's grandfather, the doctor, owned several houses and his own medical building in Silver Spring and sent my friend's dad to medical school where he married an heiress who was a psychiatry student. They had a gigantic house outside of NIH, much bigger than ours, and I always hassled him that it trickled down straight from slavery.

Does that answer your culpability?

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 18, 2007 1:24 PM

So is the Berlin Philharmonic prohibited from touring under that name, as none of the original members are still alive?

Posted by: Irony Detector | January 18, 2007 1:39 PM

Bethesdan,

There you go again. Those who bought in segregated neighborhoods paid much less for their homes, and being poor, it was good that there was this affordable housing available to them. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to own anything.

That property today has appreciated at a much greater rate than your buddy's house, and the descendants are enjoying the benefits of the earlier segregation.

But, I don't agree with you that we should tax them and take away these benefits. They're entitled to them.

And, why would a sensitive person like you even befriend some low life who benefited from slavery? You Bethesdans have no scruples.

Posted by: Chevy Chasan | January 18, 2007 1:40 PM

Just a reminder that this applies to more than just Doo Wop bands. The Glen Miller Band was still touring well into the 21st Century.

Oh, BTW, on State Legislatures with time on their hands. Check out the new California Sales Tax rules. Sales Tax on Orthodontic appliances (braces for the uninitiated) and hearing aids, but Botox Cosmetic and bags full of silicone used for uhhhh figure enhancement are Sales Tax exempt.

Posted by: Catcher 50 | January 18, 2007 1:49 PM

Bethesdan,

You know people who were still practicing slavery in the 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s??? MoCo is a singularly evil and despicable place. The rest of the country, even RoVA, has outlawed slavery for almost a century and a half.

If VA were apologizing for the last several decades of ill-treatment, segregation, and numerous other forms of discrimination -- activities that numerous state officials not only participated in but profited from -- then that would silence a lot of the bill's critics. There are real sins for which these legislators can acknowledge their personal guilt, but it's much easier to dole out bromides about how terrible it was in the bad old days (a long long time ago and for which the current politicians are blameless).

At least the music bill actually does something meaningful and well within the scope of problems a state legislature is capable fo sovling.

Posted by: athea | January 18, 2007 1:58 PM

Athea,

Can you please explain to me exactly what the music bill does that is "meaningful" and is not already done by other laws? How many people do you think are actually fooled by fake bands? Aren't people getting exactly what they're paying for?

Posted by: KK | January 18, 2007 2:53 PM

Athea- I presume you can read my post, but joking like you do about slavery isn't remotely funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2007 3:07 PM

Those who bought in segregated neighborhoods paid much less for their homes, and being poor, it was good that there was this affordable housing available to them.
--------

People who bought in segregated neighborhoods were not necessarily poor. Where do you get that from? Do you remember Washington, DC of the 1970s at all? You'd have wealthy African-American lawyers and doctors clamoring for newly unrestricted property. You are living in a fantasyland of your own making divorced from the reality of the 1970s, which I remember, but certainly from the 1940s. Watch a film like Raisin in the Sun, which is specifically about an African-American family that had more than enough money to buy a middle class house in a whites only neighborhood, but dealt with racism.

And I don't think you'll find a single realtor in the United States who would claim that smaller houses appreciated in larger percentages than larger houses. That is not true whatsoever. Larger houses always appreciate at greater rates. You have no idea what you're talking about, educate yourself.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 18, 2007 3:13 PM

Bethesdan,

Raisin in the Sun? That's your history?

As to appreciation rates, which do you think have done better -- mansions in Bethesda or row houses on 14th and U Street in DC? One has roughly doubled or tripled and the other increased ten-fold.

Get out once in a while, and I don't mean to another Sidney Poitier movie.

Posted by: Chevy Chasan | January 18, 2007 3:19 PM

I think a more appropriate name for Delegate Albo's band would be Dave's Ass from His Albo.

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 18, 2007 3:30 PM

Mr. Methane--

Thanks for restoring the proper perspective to these posts. Hope others can get back on track following your example. How does any of it relate to segregation in 1920?

Posted by: KK | January 18, 2007 3:41 PM

Chevy Chasan-

I clarified my facts with my realtor after this discussion got strange. You are incorrect.

My end of the conversation is over. I confirmed the facts as I understood them to be correct.

She showed clients a Bethesda house at $2 million that originally sold for $12k in 1958. That is not doubling or tripling.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 18, 2007 4:13 PM


"Does that answer your culpability?"

MY culpability? As Inigo said, I do not think that word means what you think it means. But let's set that aside for the moment.

I'm sorry. I apologize for everything I did to your ancestors and their kin before 1900. Never mind the fact that my parents weren't even born then. I apologize.

Does it mean anything? Of course not. Do you feel better? Of course not. Have I elevated the standing of people of color in any way whatsoever? Of course not! Then what's the purpose of such an apology? I have no idea.

So let me rephrase the apology: I'm sorry that you feel so badly. Because I certainly haven't done anything for which you want an apology, and an apology from me for a third party's actions is meaningless.

Would you be happy if the state legislature passed something saying that slavery, and redlining, and jim crow, and miscegenation law, and whatever else you want to add to the list were bad things that shouldn't have been done? Would that make you whole?

Fine. I don't have a problem with that. It's a waste of time, but at least it's not meaningless.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a fake concert to attend.

Posted by: dlc | January 18, 2007 4:14 PM

"Larger houses always appreciate at greater rates."

Always? No. There are too many variables. Arlington's got a pretty good online assessments/sales database (hard to navigate though) - go do some research. You might be surprised at what you find.

Posted by: dlc | January 18, 2007 4:41 PM

Realtors...slavery....housing appreciation?

I thought this was about Lynyrd Skynyrd!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2007 4:58 PM

Bethesdan,

Well, my realtor told me about a house on V Street and 13th in DC. In 1954 it sold for $8,750. In 2006 it sold for $1,150,000. That's an increase of 13,100%.

So my sample of one trumps your sample of one. I declare victory, and you need to get a new realtor.

But, the weird thing about it, is that the buyer of the property in 2006 was Lynard Skynard! And, if Albo's bill becomes a law, he wouldn't be able to buy or sell the house!

Get over yourself.

Posted by: Chevy Chasan | January 18, 2007 5:19 PM

Hey Fisher. I caught that last line of the blog. Are you really so arrogant as to assume that the Virigina Legislature has nothing better to do than worry about your sorry ass's trip to work in the morning?

Posted by: James Buchanan | January 18, 2007 6:42 PM

I'm sorry. I apologize for everything I did to your ancestors and their kin before 1900. Never mind the fact that my parents weren't even born then. I apologize.
----------

Do you think I'm Black? I think you do. This isn't about me wanting things for me. My ancestors didn't live in the US in 1900. I grew up in Bethesda. Montgomery County, like NoVa and RoVa, was very segregated and the only Black people who lived around us were diplomats until at least 1976. This isn't about me or what I want or what will make me feel better, it's about recognizing where our historical wealth came from in the US and in the case of my grandparents, the wealth that drew them out of Europe and Canada. I really think I have to take a break from commenting on these stories if people are going to hallucinate as much as they do here. I'm a total, obvious wasp.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 18, 2007 9:39 PM

"Do you think I'm Black? I think you do."

Could be, which is fair since you assumed I was white when you decided that I was personally culpable for slavery.

"Montgomery County, like NoVa and RoVa, was very segregated and the only Black people who lived around us were diplomats until at least 1976."

You should be careful with the word "segregated," as you should be careful with the word "culpable." If it were truly segregated in the most popular meaning of the term, there would have been no black folks in your neighborhood at all, diplomats or not.

In the 1970s I lived in a neighborhood with almost all families of one ethnicity. Did my jurisdiction have segregationist laws? Of course not. Were there sinister forces keeping black folks out of some neighborhoods around DC? I don't think so. Was the makeup of the community due to previous segregation? No doubt in part, though measuring the impact would be challenging.

Hallucinating? Hmmm. Dictionary.com might be a big help to you.

Now where are the fake Drifters?

Posted by: dlc | January 19, 2007 10:43 AM

Surely the legislature could be doing more to help the country gain freedom from foreign oil, help the environment, or the people... but so-called fake music? Well, quark has a good point about genisis... and all the other bands who have replaced people. I saw the Alman Brothers once after one was dead. Who gets to keep or use the name? Well, as long as they list band member names on the billing they can call themselves whatever as far as I am concerned. Slavery? Segregation? Are those punk or metal bands? Seriously, bad things happened in the past- the government can say they were bad if that will make you feel better, but it does little to change the present state of things- at some point you have to stop complaining and realize the only way to get anything done is to struggle and do it yourself. This is true no matter what your background or color. I wish the wrongs of the past were not committed, but dwelling on the past does not build a better country. Remember the past and let us not repeat mistakes- but let us continuously move forward.

Posted by: Chris | January 19, 2007 1:30 PM

re: "Virginia's legislature is considering an effort to make it illegal to mislead consumers by selling tickets to a concert unless the band either includes original members of the group or holds the copyright to the group's name."


Correction: You can't get a copyright in a band name. The proper legal protection falls under trademark law.

Posted by: Amy E. Mitchell | January 22, 2007 12:27 PM

Amy E. Mitchell,

Did you discover this yourself or did you copy this out of the post by bkp | January 18, 2007 09:13 AM?

"A group's name can be trademarked, not copyrighted. How long have you been a journalist, Fisher? Anyway, there are plenty of trademark laws out there already."

Posted by: Meanwhile, five days later, she tunes in... | January 22, 2007 4:45 PM

I think the legislation is a waste of time, but I can appreciate the spirit behind it. Mike Love and Bruce Johnston have been performing under the Beach Boys name for some time, even though Brian Wilson was the creative force behind the group. But I don't think the Pet Sounds tour with Brian Wilson and Al Jardine deserves to be called the Beach Boys either. I think the surviving members of Led Zeppelin had the right idea - working under their own names instead of using the group name to exploit the nostalgia.

Posted by: Tonio | January 23, 2007 9:45 AM

this is one more childish charade by this boy Albo, who many of us Republicans suspect is a closet-homo...despite his belated marriage and adopted kid (don't forget he was engaged once before apparently to make voters think he would be a 'family man').

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