Rolling Stone magazine has escaped legal hot water for slapping famous cover images of musicians on t-shirts, tote bags and other merchandise.
In recent years, the media has struggled to figure out business models to counter slipping ad sales, so the bible of rock culture decided it would be a good idea to hawk merchandise like the Nirvana t-shirt pictured.
One problem: Live Nation, F.E.A. Merchandising and Bravado International Group Merchandising Services have exclusive licensing deals with musicians for the rights to sell merchandise.
Last October, the plaintiffs sued the Wenner Media publication. In the complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that Rolling Stone was violating the artists’ publicity rights and making unfair competition by hawking reproductions of its magazine covers on commercial items. Rolling Stone tried to assert a First Amendment defense, saying the merchandise was expressive non-commercial speech as part of a subscription promotion campaign. Last December, a judge refused to toss the case for the need to see more evidence.
But it won’t get that far, as the parties have settled their differences. Exact terms of the settlement aren’t known, but we hear that many of the merchandise in dispute will no longer be available for sale.