Black Keys Sue Casino Over Song Use in Commercial

Rockers taking action against 'substantially similar' track

Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys perform at the Global Citizen Festival In Central Park on September 29th, 2012.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for the Global Citizen Festival
January 23, 2013 4:45 PM ET

Even if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Black Keys aren't too pleased with a Louisiana casino's commercials. The Ohio rockers have filed a lawsuit in New York federal court against Pinnacle Entertainment, who run the L'Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, and Manhattan Production Music, a company that makes music for commercial advertising, claiming the companies used their Brothers track "Howlin' for You" in advertisements. The complaint alleges that a September ad for the L'Auberge Casino used music "substantially similar" to "Howlin' for You," and also claims Pinnacle used "infringing music" in an ad for another casino the following month.

If companies are unable or unwilling to secure licensing rights to popular songs, they often hire music production houses to create similar-sounding pieces of music for their advertisements. The melody or key usually sports enough variation to avoid lawsuits, but the Black Keys assert a "blatant and purposeful infringement" of copyrights in their complaint.

The Rise of the Black Keys

Other details in the lawsuit complicate things further; documents note a fan of the Black Keys called out the casino on Twitter, but a representative responded, "We bought a licensed musical interpretation of the song." The lawsuit also alleges that on the YouTube page for the L'Auberge Casino commercial, a rep claimed the song in question was "a licensed track inspired by 'Howlin' for You' by the Black Keys." The video appears to have been removed from YouTube.

On top of copyright infringement claims, the Black Keys are also claiming the defendants broke trademark law by providing a false designation of origin and creating unfair competition for the band. The Black Keys settled infringement lawsuits against Pizza Hut and Home Depot last November after the companies used El Camino cuts "Gold on the Ceiling" and "Lonely Boy," respectively, in advertisements. The group is up for five Grammys this year, including Record of the Year and Best Rock Song for "Lonely Boy," and Album of the Year and Best Rock Album for El Camino.

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