Monday, October 15, 2012

Trademarking Jazz™


A Sunday New York Times ad for the Blue Note club in NYC lists: "Dizzy Gillespie™ Alumni All-Stars."

Ya gotta ask, why has Dizzy's name been trademarked? I suppose if the entire band's name was trademarked it might constitute a healthy trend; that there are rival Alumni All-star groups out there and enough loose cash at stake that one of them needs to get the imprimatur of Dizzy's estate to fend off the pretender. But it's only Dizzy's name with the trademark sign.


Is there a miscreant out there passing himself off as the late and much lamented maestro? Doesn't ring true. Has the Gillespie estate been purchased by Disney, officious propagator of copyright litigation to protect the images of Mickey and Goofy?

Not exactly. After a little research, this showed up: "As the exclusive licensing agent for Dizzy Gillespie, CMG Worldwide is dedicated to maintaining and developing a positive brand image for our client. We actively seek out commercial opportunities that are consistent with our brand positioning goals."

Indianapolis-based CMG Worldwide has a long list of famous clients, from Mark Twain and Jack Dempsey to Benny Goodman. CMG is a tireless protector (lobbyist) for the rights of the estates of dead celebrities.

I'm not opening up a debate about the length of copyright protection here. That's its own can of worms. I'm talking about the question of extending the realm of "protection" into more and more areas. 

Should a musician's estate collect royalties on recordings and compositions? Definitely. Should they collect on t-shirt sales? Debatable, but should they collect when a band includes the name of the dead performer? Should they collect for the thousands of "Tribute" pages dotting the 'net? How did the "Mark Twain Tribute Cruise" and the Benny Goodman Centennial Tribute" slip through the cracks un-trademarked? Someone at CMG needs to be knuckle-rapped.

We know the importance his wife Lorraine had in Dizzy's life and career and she deserved to reap the creative results of same. She's been gone since 2005, the same year CMG picked up the contract. Diz was survived by a daughter and grandson and I assume that ASCAP, BMI and whoever owns Verve, DeGee Records, etc. are still paying off the family. If not, let loose the lawyers.

As far as "protection" beyond that, though, I truly believe that Diz would be the last person to sic lawyers on people using his name as part of their own creative efforts. As to whether or not a particular use fulfills CMG's credo as "maintaining and developing a positive brand image," I believe Diz would just say, in that silky crankcase voice of his, "I think we'll just let the people decide who the real Dizzy Gillespie is."


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