So one of the upsides (?) of getting sued for $10,000,000 for singing in a P!NK Tribute Band is that anytime there is a legal battle in the music industry, I usually know about it immediately… Kesha, Metallica Cover Bands… people will come to me to weigh in on the scandal at hand.
Shoutout to Michael J. O’Brien who brought the case of L.A. band Vice Versa to my attention, who is being somewhat bullied by Vice Magazine to completely change their brand, name and identity to avoid being confused with the actual media company. Anyone who has had a band knows how much blood sweat and tears it takes to get to the point where music videos, albums and tours are actually produced. So the Vice vs. Vice Versa case is in a very different ballpark then the case against me (recently dropped). In my case, their was absolutely zero legitimacy to the claims and everybody knew it (I was sued for the name “Reservoir Dogs”…which I never actually performed under.. I was also sued for the name “Funhouse” which according to Trademark searches was applied for the day after the Plaintiff sent me a cease and desist..). In Vice vs. Vice Versa, it is my opinion that there is some legitimacy. I do believe a happy medium can be reached by both parties without the band having to completely rebrand. Before I get into my devil’s advocate POV, I would like to introduce you to the band itself. They are pretty good, obviously serious about making music. Whatever happens, they deserve to be elevated as a band as a result of the publicity.
The Huffington Post writes:
Asked Friday if fans ever thought ViceVersa was affiliated with Vice Media, Morales replied, “Absolutely not!”
Fair enough, but if Vice Versa continues to tour and release material, that fanbase will grow which can open up the percentage of people who may be confused.
(The band’s lawyer Harry) Finkel says he wrote a letter back to Vice offering to change some of the language in Morales’ trademark application, so that it was clear that the band “would not be doing anything with TV shows or magazine publishing or publishing in general” that could be seen as encroaching on Vice’s territory. He says he never heard back from the company.
Here is why that won’t work: a big part of a band’s job is to engage in the media. Vice Versa may be a struggling indie band now, but who is to say that they won’t have ties to the TV and publishing industries in the future? One thing about the music business, it is random. Any band can randomly blow up at anytime for any reason. It is clear that Vice Versa is serious about their music and growing their fanbase. Vice Versa could potentially eventually be signed by an entity that is a direct competitor to Vice.
Here is the Vice logo we have all known for years:
Here is the logo of Vice Versa:
So I do see some similarities in the look of the “VIC”, which I do believe gives some legitimacy to the logo claims…however this can be easily rectified by redesigning the logo so their is absolutely no similarity.
To tell the band they can’t use “Vice Versa” is beyond insane.
My advice to the band is fight for your name, but change the design of the logo so it absolutely can not be confused at all. As someone who has fought a lawsuit for two years (although the one against me had no legitimate claims in it), my advice is if you can find common ground, find it. In my case, I was backed into a corner by a total stranger in such an unreasonable manner that the choice to fight was made for me. If you can avoid a long legal battle, avoid it. I would love to see you guys raise $15,000 for your legal fees, but I’d rather see you invest it in gear, touring, merch and PR. I think of all the things I could have done with the $14,000 in legal fees I have accrued so far.
It’s good to see cases like this publicized, because indie musicians need to be educated on the legal ins and outs of the business. As artists growing our fan bases, we are our own mini corporations. Now, I do actually have some concerns about the spacing of ViceVersa and the name itself… only because it is not highly searchable. When searching for Vice Versa the band, a plethora of other bands came up… including In Vice Versa, a post hardcore band from Thailand… which I will address in another blog post. I have a greater concern that this band may have been making it harder for them to reach new fans because they are not as easily searchable as they could be.
Anyway, ViceVersa I wish you luck in your endeavors and welcome to the weird and wacky world of unexpectedly getting dragged into the legal system! You are now officially a tiny blip in the world of pop culture. Which ever way you go for this, fight for what is right and fair…but choose your battles wisely.