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Beatles Sue Nike for Using Recording of ‘Revolution’ in Ads

July 29, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Apple Records, the Beatles’ recording company, charged in a $15 million lawsuit Tuesday that the Nike shoe company was using the rock group’s ″persona and goodwill″ in its advertisements without permission.

In a complaint filed in the trial-level state Supreme Court, Apple said Nike used an original recording of the Beatles’ song ’Revolution″ in an advertising campaign, ″Revolution in Motion,″ for a line of running shoes.

Nike spokesman Kevin Brown said Nike is an innocent victim in this lawsuit due to an ongoing squabble between Apple Records and EMI Records.

″We bought the rights to use lyrics, words and recording, we bought it from the owners and still we get sued,″ said Brown from Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters. ″The world’s gone crazy.″

Apple cannot sue for use of the song because it is owned by singer Michael Jackson, who successfully bid $47.5 million against Paul McCartney and others for ATV Music when it became available in 1985.

ATV’s catalog included 251 Beatles tunes, including ‘Revolution.’

Master recording rights, that is, rights to use the song as recorded by the Beatles, are controlled by Capital Records in North America and EMI in the rest of the world.

Nike reportedly paid the record companies $250,000 for use of the Beatles’ recording of ″Revolution.″

Leonard Marks, Apple’s lawyer, said use of the Beatles’ voices constitutes ″unauthorized exploitation of the Beatles’ persona and goodwill″ in TV commercials for Nike-Air shoes.

″The Beatles position is that they don’t sing jingles to peddle sneakers, beer, pantyhose or anything else,″ said Marks. ″Their position is that they wrote and recorded these songs as artists and not as pitchmen for any product.″

Defendants in Apple’s suit are Nike Inc., Capitol Records Inc., EMI Records Ltd., and Weiden and Kennedy Advertising.

Marks said the defendants had violated the Beatles’ rights ″in a wholesale manner and have paid nothing for their wrongful misappropriation″ of the Beatles’ voices, goodwill and persona.

Marks said Capitol and EMI signed agreements in September 1969 regarding payments to Apple for use of Beatles recordings. He said they have paid nothing pertaining to the Nike ad campaign.

In Hollywood, Calif., an executive for Capitol Industries-EMI, Inc., branded the lawsuit as ″certainly the most absurd and nonsensical″ in a series of lawsuits brought by Marks against Capitol and EMI on behalf of Apple.

Bob O’Neill, vice president-general counsel for Capitol-EMI said his company’s rights to license its Beatles masters are ″crystal clear.″

″Capitol licensed the use of ‘Revolution’ in the Nike advertisement with the active support and encourageent of Yoko Ono Lennon, a shareholder and director of Apple, whose statement approving the Nike commercial has been publicly quoted by Time magazine in a May 1987 article,″ O’Neill said.