Truth in Music laws take a knock in court setback

September 2010


The State of New Jersey has been handed a setback in a case involving the Truth in Music Act, though advocates of the law said Monday that the ruling would not materially affect its effectiveness.  The Act is designed to protect both original band members and the audience against touring acts using heritage band names but containing no original members or no connection with original line ups. The case stems from 2007, when then New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram sought a restraining order to force the groups to call themselves “tribute” bands when they performed in Atlantic City. The groups sued, and the state eventually conceded in U.S. District Court that it had enforced the law incorrectly.  In the federal case, the state Attorney General’s Office contended that the unregistered trademarks held by Live Gold, the promoter for the groups performing as the Platters and Coasters, prevented them from performing unless they billed themselves as “tribute” bands. U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise rejected the argument and ruled that an unregistered trademark, if found valid, had the same rights as a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Whilst neither of the bands who went to court contained original members, a federal appeals court has now ruled that the state Attorney General’s Office must pay attorneys’ fees to the promoter of groups calling themselves the Platters and the Cornell Gunter Coasters. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said the office was considering whether to appeal last week’s ruling.
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