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Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Monday, August 25, 2008

What's In a Name? $5 Million, for Instance

Morrison_grave
Jim Morrison is dead. That's his grave at left. So, you would think that if a band plays a tour in the 21st Century under the banner "The Doors of the 21st Century," nobody would be fooled and think they are going to hear the legendary Mr. Morrison. Nonetheless, according to the Associated Press, the California Supreme Court has upheld a trial court finding that two members of the original band, "The Doors" are liable for $3.2 million in damages plus $2 million in legal fees for having used the band's name during a recent tour.

Back in 1970, the original "Doors" had a violent disagreement over the use of their song "Light My Fire" in a Buick commercial. Guys, roll the video:

Well, okay, that's not the Buick commercial, but there's a good reason for that. The band members, perhaps unaware of the fiduciary implications of such an arrangement, agreed to make all future business decisions by a unanimous vote. Morrison put the kaibash on the Buick commercial. After his death, decisions are taken by the three remaining members, with proceeds shared with Morrison's parents and the parents of his deceased wife. Drummer John Densmore has recently objected to the use of "Light My Fire" to sell Cadillacs and also to an endorsement of iPods. Too bad, that's a commercial I would have liked to see.

It was also Densmore who objected to the use of the name, "The Doors," the band's old logo or any other Morrison era imagery when he gave fellow band members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger permission to tour and perform the band's old songs. Their tour as "The Doors of the 21st Century" grossed $3.2 million. That money must now be paid over to Densmore and the parents of Morrison and his wife. The trial court's ruling that Manzarek and Krieger also had to pay the other parties' legal fees (amounting to $2 million) is still on appeal.

Manzarek and Krieger now tour as "Riders on the Storm."

[Jeremy Telman]

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