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January 21, 2006

Why states are cracking down on Great Pretenders

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial (PA):

How’s this for a bum note? Impostor doo-wop performers have been going around the country using the names of famous groups and fooling music fans into thinking that they are the real deal. Oh-oh yes, they’re the great pretenders.

But those musicians whose need is such they pretend too much will be left grieving all alone if the Pennsylvania Legislature has its way. With the support of fans of doo-wop, the grandly named Truth in Music Advertising Act (Senate Bill 929) has already passed the chamber and received the unanimous support of a House committee.

As the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Robbins, a Republican from Mercer, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this is serious business involving identity theft for artists and consumer fraud on the public.

SB 929 would prevent artists from claiming to be a certain group (in any musical genre – not just doo-wop) unless they own the trademark name or at least one member was part of the original group and has the right to carry on. Exceptions are provided for advertised tributes or salutes or performances expressly authorized by the original group.

The proposed legislation would permit the attorney general or a district attorney to obtain an injunction to stop phony groups from doing their thing. Bogus groups could also end up being liable for civil penalties of $5,000 to $15,000 in addition to costs and restitution. That ought to stop them laughin’ and being gay like a clown.

North Dakota and South Carolina have similar laws, but supporters of SB 929 think those don’t do enough to correct the problem. The bill’s backers are campaigning nationwide and hope to make this measure the model for other states. As one of them told the Post-Gazette: “Pennsylvania is a key state to start in. It’s always been a real strong oldies state” – which, when you think about it, is a double-edged compliment.

A bill to protect the interests of gray-haired rock ’n’ rollers may not be the state’s highest priority, but who can be against truth in music or anything else?

If the Platters (who recorded “The Great Pretender”) are onstage, fans shouldn’t have to worry that they are dancing to a deceptive beat. And maybe nothing can stop the Duke of Earl, but his dukedom can only be helped by a bill that says the golden oldies can’t be tarnished.

Posted by acapnews at January 21, 2006 12:15 AM