Velvet Underground in banana brouhaha

The 1960s truly is the decade that keeps giving. The latest joyous event from survivors of that drug-saturated era features a veteran rock band suing the estate of a dead artist over the rights to a picture of a banana.

The Velvet Underground, once purveyors of ground-breaking and confrontational music, now jealous protectors of supposed copyright, are suing the Andy Warhol Foundation for leasing the rights to the banana picture for sleeves of iPads and iPhones.

The banana featured on the cover of the 1967 album The Velvet Underground and Nico. Original pressings featured the banana in the form of a sticker, and purchasers were invited to peel it off. The design by Warhol was never copyrighted and the band assert that it is inextricably associated with The Velvet Underground.

Of the original line-up, guitarist Sterling Morrison died in 1995 and singer Nico died in 1988. The surviving members are John Cale, Lou Reed and Moe Tucker.

In court documents submitted in Manhattan, lawyers representing the group members assert that the banana "became a symbol, truly an icon, of The Velvet Underground for some 25 years". As opposed to say, a popular fruit.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the use of the banana symbol by any third parties, a declaration that the Warhol Foundation has no copyright interest in the design, unspecified damages, and, the important bit, a share of the profits made by the Warhol Foundation from any licensing activities. In short, the band are waiting for the man to pay up.

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