Jason Mraz alleged in a new lawsuit in California that MillerCoors wrongfully misappropriated his song “I’m Yours,” his voice and his image in an Instagram post promoting Coors Light beer.
Mraz, a Grammy award-winning artist who authored the song in 2004 and registered it for copyright protection in 2008, performed his song in May 2019 at the BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach, California.
After the festival, MillerCoors posted an Instagram ad for Coors Light beer that featured approximately 13 seconds of a video recording of Mraz’s performance that includes the singer’s image, according to the federal court complaint.
A logo for Coors Light stating “Presented by Coors Light” was superimposed over portions of the ad. During another part of the ad, a can of Coors Light is prominently displayed. In the comments section below the video, the advertisement states, “Kicking off summer with the World’s Most Refreshing Beer at the BeachLife Festival.”
“Due to the family friendly nature of the song, Mraz has never licensed the composition for use by alcohol companies or other adult-oriented products and would never do so,” the complaint alleged.
The complaint seeks injunctive and monetary relief for copyright infringement as well as Lanham Act and right of publicity violations.
In response to the lawsuit, MillerCoors said it had removed the post and denied the complaint’s charges that it infringed Mraz’s copyright and violated his right of publicity.
“MillerCoors contracted the rights to the BeachLife Festival and video assets through the event’s promoter, so if they truly feel there has been a violation here, we are not the party they should be suing,” the company said in a statement.
To read the complaint in Mraz v. MillerCoors LLC, click here.
Why it matters: The complaint raises an important issue for advertisers that sponsor events when they use content obtained from the event organizers. They should make sure the sponsorship agreement puts the burden on the event organizer to provide fully cleared content, and also confirm before they use the content that all third-party rights have been in fact cleared for the sponsors’ intended use, especially where music is involved.