RCA recording artists ZZ Top and their music publisher have sued an ad agency and Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc., claiming they did not give permission for use of their song “La Grange” and sound-alike performers in a car ad.
A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by ZZ Top members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard and manager Bill Ham, who runs Hamstein Music Co., said the ads were a “deliberate and willful effort to misappropriate and infringe on the copyright to ‘La Grange’ and improperly exploit the persona, public reputation, and secondary meaning and association of ZZ Top.”
Ironically, ZZ Top was sued earlier this year by the music publisher for bluesman John Lee Hooker, who claimed “La Grange” was a copy of one of Hooker’s songs.
The complaint filed against Mitsubishi claims the sound-alike performers gave the impression that ZZ Top performed in the ad. The suit seeks at least $ 15 million for infringement and at least $ 100 million in “illicit profits,” plus unspecified punitive damages and an injunction against further use.
Doors for successful suits against sound-alike performers were opened by Bette Midler’s recent victory in a similar case.