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Rock Band Battles Use of Hit Song

The Standells, the 1960s rock band that popularized the lyrics, "Well I love that dirty water," filed a breach of contract suit May 31 against beer giant Anheuser-Busch for using its song "Dirty Water" in a Budweiser commercial.

According to the complaint, the Standells had a written agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), which stated that companies wouldn't use any portion of any sound recording made under the jurisdiction of AFTRA in any commercial, "without separately bargaining with the principal performer and reaching an agreement regarding such use prior to any utilization of such sound track." AFTRA is a performer's union that represents more than 70,000 performers, journalists and other artists.

The group alleges that although Anheuser reached an agreement with AFTRA, it did so without seeking personal consent from the artists.

The group's attorney, entertainment lawyer Steven Ames Brown, has won verdicts for other music groups in similar cases, including a $250,000 judgment against Pepsico Inc. for improperly using the Flamingo's song "I Only Have Eyes for You" as well as a $500,000 judgment against a recording company for illegal use of rhythm and blues singer Billy Paul's 1973 hit "Me & Mrs. Jones."

The Standells are seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

Staff Writer

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