Copyright Law

Lawyers for Bill Murray and the Doobie Brothers trade barbs and humor over use of song

  • Print

Image from

Lawyer Peter Paterno started the jousting when he wrote a letter on behalf of the Doobie Brothers to actor Bill Murray and his golf apparel company.

The Sept. 23 letter objected to the company’s use of the Doobie Brothers’ song “Listen to the Music” in its ads for one of its golf shirts, report Rolling Stone, Above the Law, CNN, the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter.

“It’s a fine song. I know you agree because you keep using it in ads for your Zero Hucks Given golf shirts,” wrote Paterno, a lawyer with King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano. “However, given that you haven’t paid to use it, maybe you should change the company name to ‘Zero Bucks Given.’ ”

Paterno asserted that Murray was running other ads using music with other clients his firm represents.

“It seems like the only person who uses our clients’ music without permission more than you do is Donald Trump,” he wrote.

The letter summarized its legal arguments in this paragraph: “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 you can’t use music in ads without paying for it.”

The letter added: “We’d almost be OK” with use of the music “if the shirts weren’t so damn ugly.”

A lawyer for Murray’s golf company, Alexander Yoffe of Yoffe & Cooper, tweeted his humorous reply letter, which was complete with song references from the Doobie Brothers. He asserted that the Doobie Brothers band was not harmed by use of the music.

“First, I would like to compliment you on finding levity in the law at a time when the world and this country certainly could use a laugh. Your client’s demand was able to cut through the noise of the news cycle and remind us how much we all miss live music these days,” Yoffe wrote.

“We would also like to confirm that both our firm, and the good folks at William Murray Golf, are indeed fans of the Doobie Brothers’ music, which is why we appreciate your firm’s choice of ‘Takin’ It to the Streets,’ rather than to the courts, which are already overburdened ‘Minute by Minute’ with real problems.”

Yoffe closed his letter with something of a settlement offer: Provide the shirt size for Paterno and members of the Doobie Brothers, “along with which of our client’s shirts you find the least offensive, and we will happily upgrade your wardrobes and hopefully win each of you over as new fans of the brand.

“At least that’s ‘what this fool believes.’ ”

See also:

ABA Journal: “Lawyers, songs and money: Music that changed the law”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.