Intellectual Property is often sold as a legal measure to protect artists from scammers who may attempt to replicate their brand, but more often than not these types of legal avenues are taken advantage of by opportunists and exploited by publishers to the detriment of truly creative people. This situation plays out on a regular basis, I experienced this firsthand when getting my first book published, and noticed a similar situation in the news this week when rock band Skitzo Calypso had the majority of their releases pulled from multiple distributors because an artist in an entirely different genre, with a somewhat similar name, trademarked their name and as a result was able to have any artist with a related name to be taken off the market. One of the bands caught up in the crossfire was Skitzo Calypso of Baltimore, who I have been following for most of their 20+ year career.
This week, I saw the band announce through their Facebook page that the bulk of their back catalog was going to disappear from Spotify, Amazon, Itunes and all of their distributor’s partners. I reached out to Skitzo Calypso front man Brad Cox for the details and was shocked to learn just how easy it is for opportunists to knock their perceived competition off the map using bogus IP claims. Not only was the artist in question 7 years-old at the time of the band’s first official release, but their name is even spelled differently, although many of the letters are the same. Brad did not want to put the other artist’s name to the public because he is hoping to handle this behind the scenes diplomatically, but early efforts have not been fruitful. He also said that it is only one word in the name that is being disputed, which makes the claim even more ridiculous.
“It’s like saying there can’t be a Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ John, and Lil’ Kim because of Lil’ or a Guns N’ Roses and LA Guns because of ‘Guns’,” Brad said in an interview with The Mind Unleashed.
Brad went on to say that he has spent the past several days stuck in a customer service nightmare, where none of the legal departments will even respond to him and are just diverting the claim to the legal system, basically forcing him into court.
“The legal departments literally won’t talk to you or adhere to basic logic…they award the complainant control for frivolous disputes. I’m not asking for a lawyer from the company to defend me, but I am asking for a certain level of common sense he attributed to these types of situations,” he said. To add insult to injury, the band has not toured or played live since the recent passing of one of their long-time members, so for the foreseeable future, streaming their music was the only way for fans like myself to relive 20 years of memories, but now that lifeline is threatened and the band intends to fight back.
“This is a matter of principle, it’s not like we necessarily depend on the income from this as many of us have moved on to other projects like ‘We Love The Underground,’ but we don’t want 20 years of memories to be lost in time over something so stupid. Skitzo Calypso is something that is very important to us and very important to our fans, and we aren’t going to let that go without a fight,” Brad said.
For now, to give fans access to their music, they have compiled a 38-track compilation album of all the songs from the albums that have been contested by this other artist. In the past, the biggest concern of most artists was getting ripped off by their label by allowing the label ownership of their work, but now that online distributors have taken their place, it is more common for third parties to use these same laws to edge out their real or imagined competition.