In the hours following my blog post on Black Robot vs. Bl_ck R_b_ts, I received an email from the former’s PR person, Jenn. She’s given me permission to publish our correspondence verbatim.
As someone who works for the band in the US, I just wanted to clarify a few things that your story missed:
First, the Irish band came to our attention after someone posted about them on Black Robot’s Facebook page. They appeared to be getting ready to release a new CD and it’s pretty impossible for two bands to share a name (as you can imagine). We initially tried to deal with the Irish band privately. From the start, they were mocking the US band and making a joke of it. They also published all private messages. We realized we would get no cooperation and had no other choice but to let FB and Myspace review and handle it. This was a decision of management, first and foremost.
Second, you refer to “cyber bullying” in your article, when in fact, it was NOT on our part. We have had to ban no less than 25 people including band members (all from Waterford or nearby) for coming to Black Robot’s page and posting negative comments including insults to their music, age, appearance, etc. No band member, friend or fan of Black Robot (US band) went to the Irish band’s pages and retaliated that we were ever aware of, nor does the band condone or encourage that behavior. In fact, the US band was very complimentary to the Irish band. All of the names of the banned people are on record and Facebook has monitored the issue. Other pages of Black Robot were also targeted including MySpace, YouTube and Wikipedia. This went on for weeks and many, many posts were recorded and deleted. So I ask you, who was cyber bullying who here? Cyber bullying is a serious matter and not something Black Robot condones. In fact, for the most part, the band has been pretty detached from this since they’ve been working on their next record. Outside of JB reaching out, it’s been handled by web staff.
Furthermore, I believe the title of your article is unfair to Black Robot and misleading.
Third, you cite Black Robot (US) as having no international press. This isn’t true. They even received the #5 Song of the Year from the UK’s Classic Rock Magazine for 2010. We have had press, airplay & sales in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and South America.
Fourth, and very importantly, we were VERY clear from the start that we weren’t interested in suing them. They were told to speak to an attorney to get advice, but we made it clear that there would be no legal action. It was simply a matter of a name change or modification that was needed, which happens all the time. JB’s previous band Buckcherry was originally named Sparrow. When they signed to Dreamworks, they were forced to change it, which they did and moved on. A name doesn’t contain the talent, music, image, etc. and that’s something that can’t be taken away by a name change. Again, this happens all the time.
While we can appreciate that the Irish band might be upset, there are better, more professional ways to deal with this. But I guess it’s good for them in a way. After all, you wrote this about them.
Overall, it’s an unfortunate situation and was blown way out of proportion. Hopefully they can and have moved on by now.
Thanks for getting in touch – I appreciate your mature response.
First of all, I should clarify that I don’t know anybody in either of the bands involved. I was alerted to the story by the general blog community and was unaware of the Irish band (though I did know the US band) before I wrote the blog. I have no personal involvement in this.
I wrote the article because we, as a webzine, are interested mainly in independent music and I, as an individual, am particularly disposed towards independent music, particularly Irish bands. I am a fan of Buckcherry, particularly the albums on which your boy played, but I think it’s my responsibility to point out things that I think are wrong – and I think your band have tried to extend their control beyond what they’re morally entitled to.
I don’t condone the band publishing your private messages – I wouldn’t publish your email without your permission – but I can understand their flippant attitude. You (or whoever first contacted them) basically told them they should change their name because “we” own it. I’m not going to defend their fans going after you because that’s not really what I’m about, but you should at least understand that people are going to be upset when one of their favourite bands is targeted like this. It’s the internet – people are empowered to say things they would never say in real life.
I used the term cyber-bullying in part because I needed a short headline that would fit on the front page, but also because I believe it’s true. I know “bullying” conjures images of Nelson from the Simpsons beating up kids for fun – and I’m happy to clarify that BR’s action was purely a business decision – but looking at it objectively, what we do have is a big major label band from LA dictating terms to a small independent band from Ireland and forcing them to change their name to survive. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it is imposing your will on others purely based on your relative size. It’s might makes right, and I don’t think that’s morally defensible.
I understand your band’s position. I know they are a commercial entity and they want to be seen as a unique product. I made reference to this in the article, with Irish Blink suing US Blink and forcing them to become Blink-182, and you made the same point with Buckcherry being called Sparrow originally (a commenter pointed the same out). But my personal opinion as a journalist and editor – i.e. somebody who regularly deals with bands who have similar names, and often the exact same name – is that the complaints made to Facebook and MySpace were unreasonable.
I do think it was arrogant of the band to assume that their trademark superseded all other bands regardless of their origin. I mean, even the fact that both bands formed independently around the same time with similar names is indicative of how unoriginal a name it was. You may have all of your trademark paperwork in order, but the United States is not Ireland, and I’m afraid the only reason you were able to shut down Black Robots’ page is because Facebook et al. don’t like to get involved with lawsuits. An actual legal case would be far more bothersome, and you should be grateful that the band you picked on are not big enough to challenge you.
I’m not going to make excuses for the behaviour of the band’s fans, because I don’t think your band deserve to be spammed or anything like it, but I do think you have gone about this all wrong and are suffering a backlash because of it. You should know that normally rational people are uninhibited on the internet and will act accordingly. It’s something I have to deal with on a daily basis, which is why I was careful to word my blog in a way that presented your point of view and explained why I think it’s wrong. And, to be fair, I think the comments on my blog reflect that.
As regards the suing thing – it was a punchline in the joke, but it would be the logical conclusion had Facebook not done your bidding, right? And I didn’t say BR had no international press – I said they had no international sucess, which is to say they are not successful enough to enforce an international copyright. This is a reciprocal thing – Irish Black Robots existed before US Black Robot, but they did not have the international ubiquity to force out your band.
I’m sure they could have dealt with the situation more professionally but they would have lost as a result. US Black Robot are bigger and more lawyered than Irish Black Robots, so unprofessionalism is really the only way they can stand up for themselves. A lot of people around the world unfairly resent the US, and it’s thing like this that reinforce those attitudes.
I’m fine with you publishing my email unedited. But really this should just be put to rest. It’s a non-issue at this point. I just wanted to make sure the issue of cyber bullying was addressed due to it’s seriousness and that you understood the other side of the story.
But let me reiterate a couple of things:
Black Robot would have been happy to work something out with the Irish band but were never given the courtesy of even one reasonable reply. In fact when JB emailed them personally (because he understood their position), they responded not by emailing him back, but posting his email publicly and further mocking and insulting him. They even enlisted another guy (I think their producer?) to send messages that were quite rude. Honestly I was surprised adults would act this way toward others. Not something I would ever advise a client to do.
Second, you say if FB wouldn’t have acted, Black Robot would have pursued further legal action. That’s pure speculation on your part and I can assure you that one of the band attorneys emailed me personally (after reviewing it) letting me know it was a non-issue. Frankly speaking, he told me when he did an Internet search for both Ireland and world-wide, he didn’t find anything substantial for the Irish Black Robots. In other words, there are bigger fish to fry.
Have a good weekend,
It’s an issue I’d prefer not to put to rest because I think it’s important and I don’t think it’s something that can be glossed over.
I’m assuming you are the web manager who originally contacted the band. Assuming the emails they posted are full and correct, you made a vague initial request of them and received a slightly bemused reply. Your people then launched proceedings with MySpace and Facebook to have their pages deleted. That doesn’t look to me like you were waiting for a reasonable reply.
If it is a “non-issue” as you say, why bother making the complaint to Facebook and MySpace at all? Were you just being vindictive because they gave you a smart reply, or did you genuinely think they were a threat to your bottom line? It either is important or it isn’t – it can’t be both. If there are bigger fish to fry, go fry them and leave the little fish alone. You’re just coming across as arrogant and condescending now, and it’s very easy to see through.
You seem determined to have it both ways, but I’m afraid it’s not that easy in the real world. It’s fine to go around throwing legal arguments in people’s faces, but in public relations, and on the internet, you need to be able to present a reasonable argument for doing what you do and, to be honest, the more you’ve spoken on this issue the more ridiculous your position has become. I certainly think less of you now than I did at the beginning.
You’ve been utterly disingenuous in your correspondence.You say that the band left you with “no other choice” but to refer it to MySpace and Facebook, yet we’ve already established that you did so after only one email – how much of a chance is that? It’s on the public record, thanks to the band publishing your emails. You’ve continually misrepresented your position and mine (I never said the band had no international press, you say you wouldn’t have pursued further legal action despite constant mentions of lawyers and litigation), and I’m slightly embarrassed for you.
I accept that you’ve won the legal battle and, thankfully, so have the band but I’m not going to shut up and pretend that what I’ve witnessed is right. It’s not and I really hope that Black Robots get as much publicity from this as possible. And I hope that it forces you to hold yourselves to higher standards in future, because the music world is changing and you won’t be able to enforce your will on others forever.