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Joan Jett and Cherie Currie are re-teaming. No, not to reform their 1970s pop-punk group The Runaways, but rather in a just-filed lawsuit to stop the release of a tribute album.
The two filed suit in New York State Court on Thursday, looking to enjoin distribution of a 36-track album, Take It or Leave It, which features contemporary groups like The Donnas, Peaches and Dandy Warhols covering classic Runaways material such as “Cherry Bomb.”
The album is set to be released later this month by Main Man Records.
Typically, when cover songs are recorded, mechanical license royalty rates apply. No permission is required. However, in this unusual situation, Jett and Currie are claiming that the project is a violation of their likenesses, and that the record label is using their famous names to market the album.
The new album comes in the wake of increased interest in the band thanks to the 2010 film The Runaways, which starred Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as members of the influential all-girl group.
Ironically, before that film premiered, Jett and producers had to go to court because a former bandmate, bassist Jacqueline Fuchs, had objected. Fuchs, who left the band and ultimately became a Hollywood lawyer, was allegedly attempting to halt the film on grounds of a supposed violation of her publicity rights. In the end, the character of the bassist was largely invisible in the movie.
Although most rockers don’t mind cover versions — Prince nothwithstanding — and few would attempt to stop a tribute via the court system, the lawsuit isn’t the only one swirling in New York where musicians attempt to stop expression based on the premise that the marketing around that expression violates publicity rights. For example, in April, another all-girls group, The Shirelles, sued Warner Bros. in an attempt to halt the studio from using their names and likenesses in connection with a Broadway musical.
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