Yes, we have no
By Fred Mills
Bands sue former business associates all the tie in this
world, but it’s not too often a defunct band sues a dead mentor. Yesterday the
Velvet Underground filed in New York court against The Andy Warhol Foundation For
The Visual Arts – apparently the latter has plans to license the iconic
Warhol-designed banana that graced the VU’s 1967 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico, but erstwhile bandmembers
(including Lou Reed and John Cale) are claiming that the image is more
specifically associated with the Velvet Underground.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Warhol Foundation’s plans include
licensing the image for iPod and iPad related projects, so “the band made moves
to put a stop to such activity… The lawsuit says that the Velvet Underground
urged the Warhol Foundation to cease licensing activities ‘likely to cause
confusion or mistake as to the association of Velvet Underground with the goods
sold in commerce by such third parties.'”
The report adds, “According to the complaint, ‘The symbol has become so
identified with The Velvet Underground … that members of the public,
particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognize the banana
design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground.'”
Dem’s some bananas – particularly considering the potenially lucrative (read: $$$) nature of digital era licensing for an image such as the VU banana. One potential sticking point: the image was never copyrighted by the artist or the band.
Intriguingly, the ORIGINAL LP release of the Velvets
album did not have their name on the front cover, just the back: the banana
sleeve simply had the “peel slowly and see” instructions plus Warhol’s inscription. Food for thought, eh?