When Doobie Brothers Were Defrauded By Bill Murray

It is common in the entertainment industry to use the works of other artists without paying attention to copyright claims and the compensation they should pay to the original creators. When actor Bill Murray decided to use the Doobie Brothers’ classic ‘Listen to the Music’ for his golf shirt ad without paying the band, he faced a viral copyright letter that legally threatened him.

Even though copyright claim disputes ended in a quiet legal settlement, the Doobie Brothers decided to make it public by blasting Bill Murray on the internet with a humorous letter that got everyone talking. The altercation between the two sides eventually turned into one of the funniest legal threats.

Bill Murray, who owns a golf apparel brand called ‘William Murray Golf’ decided to sell a golf shirt called ‘Zero Hucks Given.’ The shirts were named after Huckleberry Finn, one of the actor’s favorite literary characters. The ads for the shirts featured the Doobie Brothers’ rock classic ‘Listen To The Music.’

However, the major issue that led to a viral moment was that Murray’s company didn’t compensate the band or ask permission from the musicians to use their song in the commercial. So, the Brothers’ delivered a message to Murray via their lawyer that perfectly explained their intention of wanting to be paid.

The Doobie Brothers’ lawyer Peter T. Paterno wrote a letter to actor Bill Murray to ask him for compensation for an alleged breach of copyright in a quirky manner that went viral. The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner tweeted the letter that began with, “We’re writing on behalf of our clients, the Doobie Brothers. The Doobie Brothers performed and recorded the song ‘Listen to the Music,’ which Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers wrote.”

The paper claimed, “It’s a fine song. I know you agree because you keep using it in ads for your Zero Hucks Given golf shirts. However, given that you haven’t paid to use it, maybe you should change the name to ‘Zero Bucks Given.’”

The letter continued with the lawyer emphasizing the United States Copyright Act, protecting any creative work that might be used without permission. “This is the part where I’m supposed to cite the United States Copyright Act, excoriate you for not complying with some subparagraph that I’m too lazy to look up, and threaten you with eternal damnation for doing so. But you already earned that with those Garfield movies. And you already know that you can’t use music in ads without paying for it.”

The lawyer closed the letter, demanding to be paid for their song, “We’d almost be okay with it if the shirts weren’t so damn ugly. But it is what it is. So in the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir Golfer. Et payez!’”

The Doobie Brothers wanted to show how determined they were to get paid for their 1972 hit classic. The open letter that reached everyone on the internet proved the importance of the Copyright Act, which allows artists to claim ownership of their work and get deservedly compensated for what they crafted.