5 Songs That Musicians Sued to Keep Out of Ads


“Heart Attack and Vine” by Tom Waits

Performed (by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) in: The 1993 Levi’s ad “Procession”

Why the lawsuit? Tom Waits has a firm policy against his songs being used in advertising, and he sued Levi Strauss & Co. in Europe to stop the ad from airing. The result was a full-page apology by Levi’s in Billboard that said, in part, “We meant no offense to Mr. Waits and regret that ‘Heart Attack and Vine’ was used against his wishes and that the commercial caused him embarrassment.”

Bonus litigation: Waits has also successfully challenged Frito-Lay, Audi and Opel for using sound-alikes after he reportedly declined to license his songs for commercials.


“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Performed (by a sound-alike) in: A 2011 ad for the Audi A6 Avant

Why the lawsuit? Shortly after Eminem appeared in Chrysler’s two-minute Super Bowl opus “Imported From Detroit” in 2011, Audi rolled out its own European spot that sounds (and looks) almost the same. Eminem’s Eight Mile Style LLC sued, ending in a settlement that included corporate donations to several Detroit charities.

Bonus litigation: “Lose Yourself” (the official version) also appeared in a 2003 ad for the Apple iPod, which sparked a lawsuit after Eminem claimed he never authorized the usage. It was settled in 2005.



“Revolution” by The Beatles

Performed in: A series of 1987 Nike ads

Why  the lawsuit? Nike bought the rights to “Revolution” for $500,000, but not from The Beatles. Instead, the song rights were owned by Capitol-EMI and Michael Jackson. The three surviving Beatles sued, with their attorney noting, “The Beatles position is that they don’t sing jingles to peddle sneakers, beer, pantyhose or anything else.” The case was settled in 1989.




“The Weight” by The Band

Performed in: A 2004 ad for Cingular Wireless

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Why the lawsuit? The Band drummer and singer Levon Helm sued BBDO in 2004 for what he said was unauthorized use of the song. “We didn't make that song to be a (expletive) jingle," he told a newspaper at the time. But an appellate court earlier this year found that, based on the group’s 1968 contract, Capitol Records actually did have permission to sell the usage rights. Helm died one month after the decision was reached.


“Gold on the Ceiling” by The Black Keys

Allegedly performed in: A 2012 ad for Pizza Hut Cheesy Bites

Why the lawsuit? The Black Keys haven’t been shy about licensing their songs for approved ads, but they’ve also been quick to point out what they claim to be unauthorized usages. In recent days, the rock duo announced they would be suing Pizza Hut for using their single “Gold on the Ceiling” in a spot for Cheesy Bites Pizza. But the band is also going after Home Depot for reportedly using their hit “Lonely Boy” in an ad featuring Ryobi tools. The group is seeking more than $75,000 from each brand.

Bonus litigation: A year ago, The Black Keys also filed two federal lawsuits against agency Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners for reportedly using their song "Tighten Up" in ads for New Jersey's Valley National Bank.