Budweiser maker sued for incomplete rights to ad music

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

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US beer firm Anheuser-Busch has been slapped with a lawsuit for
using a song in its commercials for which it had paid rights to the
record company alone, and not to the rock band that created the

The suit filed against the maker of Budweiser asks for a minimum of $1m in damages, even though the company claims never to have aired the television commercials.

The complaint claims that the company used the 1966 hit Dirty Water​ by The Standells "without separately bargaining with the principal performer and reaching an agreement regarding such use prior to any utilization of [the] sound track."

According to The Standells' attorney Steven Ames Brown, when the song was recorded 40 years ago, the group had signed an agreement with their record company that gave the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) jurisdiction over the production of their recordings.

Part of the AFTRA Commercials Code states that recordings under its jurisdiction cannot be used without separately negotiating with the artist.

And because Anheuser-Busch signed an agreement with AFTRA before using the song, it is now being accused of violating this contract.

According to Brown, this occurs all the time.

"Most artists just don't know what their rights are so most companies get away with breaching the contract,"​ he told FoodNavigator-USA.

But according to Anheuser-Busch, "The Standells were paid for the use of their music. Based on their complaint, we believe we don't owe them any additional money and the lawsuit is without merit."

Indeed, the company added that "the Bud Light advertisements referred to in the Standells' lawsuit were produced but never aired on television because the footage used in the ads did not effectively communicate the brand's fun and social image."

The suit, which was filed in recent weeks at the District Court of Massachusetts, is now in line to go to trial.

The rock band hopes to win over $1m in general damages, as well as costs and interest.

Brown, who represents old recording artists from the 50s and 60s, says he has undertaken hundreds of similar cases in the past, with around a quarter of these targeting food and beverage firms.

Indeed, just last year he won a $250,000 judgment against PepsiCo in a similar case involving the 1950s band The Flamingos and their song "I Only Have Eyes For You."

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