Black Water Rising Files $10 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against New Jersey Devils
Rob Traynor, lead songwriter for Brooklyn, New York’s Black Water Rising have filed a $10 million dollar copyright infringement lawsuit against the New Jersey Devils. The NHL franchise allegedly refused to license their song ‘Rise’ that they utilized in a promotional video that was played before every home game.
Rob Traynor released the following statement on the matter:
“Around September 2010 I received a text message from a friend of mine who was at a New Jersey Devils game informing me that the team was using our song “Rise” as their entrance/introduction music. I immediately assumed that this was a random play probably spun by the stadium DJ and really thought nothing of it. I gave my friend a return call and he explained the context in which it was used so I decided to do some investigating.
First, I posted the news on Facebook and got a bunch of responses from Jersey fans that informed me they too witnessed the same at a Devils game. It seemed that “Rise” was being used as their 2010, 2011 intro music for their “Devil’s Army Rise Up!” campaign to rally the fans and team. The band and I were excited to say the least, but we were also a little shocked because no one ever reached out to the band to inform us that they were interested in using the song. I am well aware of the laws of copyright and being a member of ASCAP I know about “blanket licenses” that are given to large public venues like the Prudential center where the Devils play, who pay a yearly sum of money to play music from the ASCAP catalogue of which BWR is a part. The music gets played and ASCAP pays the artist a royalty for the public performance of the music, this is basically how it works. But, upon further investigation into the matter I found a video on their official website that also used the song to promote the team, and it was this promotional video that was playing above the ice on giant screens every night the game began, and gave the band no credit at all. This type of usage is not covered under any blanket license and needed to be cleared by the copyright holder, me. The use of a song in a video/movie format needs to be covered by what is called a sync license for a “dramatic performance.” The song “Rise” is being used as part of their marketing campaign of which they make millions of dollars without so much as a phone call to ask if BWR wanted to be a part of it! This constitutes blatant copyright infringement. Besides total disregard for permission to use the song, the band was not even given credit in the stadium, so no one but a few fans knew who the music was by. Hence, BWR had nothing to gain from its use and this upset me to say the least.
Yes, I was excited and honored that a big corporation would want to use my music. But, I was angered that it was used without my permission, in defiance of copyright law, and for monetary gain. I guess they assumed that since we weren’t a famous band they could do what they wanted with the song and us little saps would scurry away with our tails between our legs, just happy that they were using it. Wrong!
At first, we decided to approach this situation in a positive way by trying to reach out to the Devils camp and by putting out a press release letting people know they were using the song “Rise.” After all, they weren’t even giving us credit in the stadium and we wanted people to know who the song was by. I attempted to reach out to the NJ Devils camp in good faith with numerous phone calls, but got the runaround over and over again. Finally, after about a month and a half of phone calls I decided to get a lawyer involved who served their legal department with our complaint (cease and desist). To this, they responded. I was put in contact with one of their attorneys and we discussed how we could make this a mutually beneficial situation. After agreeing on what seemed at the time a “fair promotional package” for the band, I was told that their marketing department needed to review the terms and they would draft a license within the week for me to review.
One week turned into two, two into a month, one month into two months, and so on. All the while still using the song and ignoring the numerous phone calls I was leaving trying to find out where this “agreement” was. The hockey season was drawing to a close with still no response. After 10 months I decided to get another attorney (Wallace Collins ) involved and this time took the situation to another level by filing a suit to defend my copyright.
My music was basically stolen and put to work by a corporation for their monetary gain. They used my song to rally their team and fans before every home game and didn’t even bother to credit the band. They dismissed and ignored my honest attempts to rectify the situation in the hopes that I would just go away. They banked on the hope that I would become discouraged and lack the means to file a suit against them, and they would get a free song out of the deal.
To me this is actually rather sad, that a corporation as big as the New Jersey Devils would show such blatant disregard for the copyright of a struggling artist and treat us as if we were insignificant pests, unworthy of their attention, after they basically stole my music. I wonder if Metallica would have a problem like this? It seems to me just another example of corporate greed. I’m not going away and I will defend my rights.
The ironic part about this whole thing is that the song “Rise” is about standing up to those that would hold you down. Life imitating art?
We would also like to make it clear that this statement is in no way directed at the players of the New Jersey Devils team who we are sure had absolutely no involvement or knowledge concerning this matter.
We appreciate the support of our fans and wanted to make a personal statement on this matter as it goes to the press and the public.”
Vocalist / Guitarist for the band Black Water Rising
Writer and Copyright owner of the song “Rise”