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Ads Using Sound-Alike Songs Causing Trouble

Written by Greg Moskovitch on January 4, 2014

With the costs of using original music in advertisements rising, many companies are opting to use sound-alike recordings in their campaigns. This practice, says Kelly & Co partner Peter Campbell, is leading to a rise in legal disputes between companies and the musicians being imitated.

Speaking to News Limited, Campbell said a current dispute between car company Audi and New Zeland band OMC, whose label says Audi copied OMC’s 1996 hit Land of Plenty in their Land of Quattro ad, could have powerful implications for the recording and advertising industries in Australia.

“It has become a complex and increasingly litigious area of intellectual property law,” said Campbell, who warned that companies using a mimicked recording of a familiar tune to evoke an emotional response in an audience could be in breach of copyright infringement laws.

“Music composers and artists are now far more aware of their legal rights and increasingly aggressive in protecting their material and seeking appropriate compensation. They are missing out on royalties and sales so they have become a lot more aggressive. They figure it’s the best way to send a message. Sometimes they chase people all the way down to individuals to send a message.”

Speaking on the Audi dispute, Campbell said that if the case proceeded, it would mark the first suit in New Zealand to address the issue of misleading musical sound-alikes as copyright infringement and could lead to different tests being applied to copyright infringement claims here in Australia.

In 2012, an advertisement by dairy company Dannon, aired during the US Super Bowl, featured a song that heavily resembled the John Butler Trio‘s 2003 hit Zebra. Dannon and the band negotiated an arrangement in which the advertisement no longer contains the imitated music.


Watch: Oikos Greek Yogurt Super Bowl XLVI Commercial

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