Did you know that Daily Variety is suing a popular punk rock band?

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Did you know that Daily Variety is suing a popular punk rock band?

Wed Sep 08, 2010 @ 08:04PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

The_Vandals_-_Hollywood_Potato_Chip_coverVenerable Hollywood trade newspaper Daily Variety is embroiled in heated litigation with punk rock band the Vandals, which just happens to have former entertainment lawyer and L.A. radio personality Joe Escalante as its bassist. And he's pretty pissed about it.

Escalante caught our eye with a long and somewhat sordid history of the legal battle that he posted last week on the band's website. The dispute began back in 2004, when the Vandals released their 10th album, "Hollywood Potato Chip" (click here if you don't get the crude reference), which included the band's name in lettering made to look like the trademarked Daily Variety logo. 

Reed Elsevier, Variety's parent company, sent a cease and desist letter and ultimately worked out a settlement with the band, which agreed to change the cover art and stop using the Variety-esque lettering. If the band members breached the deal, they agreed to pay $50,000 plus attorneys fees.

Case closed, right? Flash forward to April of this year, when Reed sued the band for breach of contract in federal court in Delaware, claiming the offending image had reappeared on a website for the band and its label Kung Fu Records. Reed lawyers argue that the breach of the settlement agreement is clear-cut. The band claims it wasn't behind any errant images that may have popped up online and that Reed never provided an opportunity to "cure" any breaches.

Escalante Interestingly, rather than pay a lawyer to fight Reed, Escalante is handling the matter himself. He's a Loyola Law School alum and worked in business affairs at CBS before pursuing music. He still does pro bono work and became somewhat of a local celebrity hosting "Barely Legal Radio," a show devoted to entertainment law questions on L.A.'s Indie 103.1. He later took over the station's morning drive-time slot until right before Indie went online-only in January 2009. He continues to host a show online and has a new AM program on L.A.'s KFWB station. 

“I’m spending ridiculous amounts of hours on this," Escalante tells us. "Like four to 10 hours a day. It’s a nightmare, but I’m learning how to do litigation. I hired a guy to teach me how to do it in Delaware."

He believes Reed filed the case in Delaware just to force the band to spend money fighting in a far-flung state. So Escalante got himself admitted to practice in Delaware and filed papers to try to transfer the case to Los Angeles. Reed is vigorously opposing the effort. The band has posted all the court documents on its website and will hold a fundraiser concert to raise money to fight the case on Friday at the Glasshouse in Pomona. And they created a video (below) to promote the cause. 

Reed lawyer Henry Horbaczewski tells us he will continue to press the case, despite the drubbing the company is taking from Escalante.

"While we don't expect the Vandals to see the issues through our eyes, the publicity they have generated and continue to generate contains inaccuracies, out-of-context statements and false innuendo," Horbaczewski says. "This is a breach of contract suit based on materials and links posted on the Vandals' websites. We look forward to a court deciding these issues."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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