Another week, another story about the abuse of intellectual property. This one, like many, involve the “estate” of a famous, but deceased, creator. In this case, it’s the estate of Frank Zappa, which apparently is managed by two of his four children: Ahmet and Diva. The other two children are beneficiaries of the estate, but not trustees. The issue here is that one of the other siblings, Dweezil Zappa, wanted to go out on tour under the name “Zappa Plays Zappa” in which he plays songs by Frank Zappa. Sounds reasonable… and, in fact, he’s been playing under that moniker for a while. Except, this time, Ahmet has said that it’s not allowed and forced Dweezil to change the name to “Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa” which is not nearly as catchy.
You hear a lot about how corporations abuse the copyright system, but here’s one of the many examples where an estate is trying to strong-arm someone – the original artist’s son – into not using a specific name when touring. It’s just ridiculous.
Estates have long tried to exercise complete control over works. One excellent example is the estate of author James Joyce, whose work finally went into the public domain in the EU in 2012. This New Yorker article discusses the hardball tactics of Stephen Joyce, son of the author.