ABBA tribute acts must report sets to Universal

22 07 2010

ABBA “tribute” acts will have to report the track lists of every public performance they give, under strict new criteria issued to the bands by Universal Music in Sweden.

Last month, The Stage revealed exclusively that a number of ABBA tribute groups had been issued with legal notices from the record company asking that they change their band names. It stated that Universal believed their names constituted an infringement of its intellectual property rights.

Following this, in emails sent to tribute bands and seen by The Stage, Universal stated that ABBA could be associated with the tribute acts providing that four criteria are met. These are that the word ABBA is always displayed with the word “tribute” and these words are in a smaller font size than the band’s name, that no ABBA pictures are used in marketing material, that the tribute act does not produce merchandise that has ABBA pictures or covers on it and that the band reports track-lists of the songs performed in their set after every gig.

Universal Music started by contacting 15 tribute acts. It is understood that it plans to contact all the tribute acts that it believes infringe the ABBA trademark.

A second email from Universal in Sweden to one band, also seen by The Stage, added: “Universal Music has been contacted by several fans in Brazil, South Africa etc. that have been deceived into believing that the real ABBA have reunited. Universal Music looks severely on this misleading of ABBA’s fans as well as of the general public, and are therefore now actively seeking to create clarity in the names of all ABBA tribute bands.”

When the initial news broke, Sean Egan, head of arts and media at lawyers Bates Wells and Braithwaite, commented: “Trademark infringement law is complex. Even so, in such a case, you would often expect the requirement that there is confusion, so that the public believes either that the tribute band is the original band or is authorised.”

A spokesman for Swede Dreamz – one of the bands initially contacted by Universal – confirmed that it had made the changes requested on its website and, as ABBA does not feature in the band’s name, the band “found it was easy to comply with Universal Music’s request”.

A spokesman for Universal Music in Sweden said it had no comment on the development.

by Natalie Woolman

(At last something is being done to help correct the situation of cover bands using the “ABBA” title in their promotion. We support Universal very strongly on this matter and if you have any concerns over this matter or anything to report please contact Universal or the fan club and we will pass on your information to Universal/Polar.)

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