Monday, May 2, 2016
Frank Zappa was a titan in the music world before his premature death of prostate cancer in 1993. After he died, his music and image rights were placed in a trust that was managed by his widow, and later two of his children, that had all four of his children as beneficiaries. While seeking to follow in his father's footsteps, Zappa's son Dweezil began to tour under the name Zappa Plays Zappa which specialized in covers of Frank's music. For years he able to use the name and likeness of his father without controversy but after a falling out with other family members over restrictions and payment those rights have been lost. While it will not make a great deal of difference to Dweezil in the end, since he changed the name of his band to comply with the new restrictions, this is a situation that is likely to replicate itself among the children of other rock legends. The complicated nature of music and publicity rights will create ample zones of conflict between heirs so as the superstars of the past age it will be interesting to see how they manage disputes between those that want the money and those that care about the music.
See Ben Sisario, ‘Zappa Plays Zappa’ Pits Zappa vs. Zappa, The New York Times, April 29, 2016.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.