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Music by VICE

Did Bad Brains Rip Off Their New Album Cover?

All signs point to yes, and they could face legal action under Creative Commons law.

by Benjamin Shapiro
Nov 21 2012, 7:30pm

OK look. We love Bad Brains. Seriously. But sometimes you have to call things as you see them.

Here's the cover of Bad Brains' new record, Into The Future, which just came out on Megaforce Records:

And here's the cover of a 1998 EP by Lorenzo's Music, an offensively corny experi-pop band from Madison, Wisconsin:

Alright, so both bands use a planet on their covers. That's no big deal: Public Enemy, Muse, and a bajillion others have all experimented with similar imagery. But it's impossible to deny the similarity between these two images. From the swooping ring of Saturn, to the three motion lines indicating the rotation of the planet, Bad Brains' cover is basically an inverted rip off of Lorenzo's Music's.

Why would Bad Brains, one of the most innovative bands on the planet, rip off a tiny little band from Wisconsin? And more importantly, if you are going to rip off a band, why rip off such a garbage-town doo-doo band? How did the Brains even get access to this record? You're talking about a band named for a voice actor who played the voice of Garfield in the animated cartoon. We were trying to make fun of them there, but that's actually sort of cool. Moving on.

The bottom line is that this is a direct rip-off, and no one's going to stick up for Lorenzo's Music. According to the band, "our art and music are all released under CC-BY-SA license, which means you can build from and reuse what we make." CC-BY-SA is a way for to share and remix other people's work without going to jail, and it's extremely helpful for DJs when they want to make boring mash-ups.

So sure, that's all well and good, and creative commons and all that, but that license ensures that whatever element of a piece of art is used by a third party must be clearly attributed to its creator. As CC-BY-SA clearly states:

Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author of licensor (but not in a any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Technically, if Lorenzo's Music wanted to force Bad Brains' to remove all copies of the record from shelves, they could probably do it. There are a few precedents of this, like the 2010 Gerlach vs. DVU case, which resulted in an injunction against a German political party for altering and using a photograph without citing the photographer's name. What Bad Brains is doing is actually very similar.

We hope that doesn't happen though, because Bad Brains is a good band and Lorenzo's Music is a bad band. Seriously, listen to this: