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Velvet Underground, Warhol Estate Battle Over Banana

Surviving musicians say they own rights to iconic album art
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2012 12:20 AM CST
Updated Jan 12, 2012 5:03 AM CST
Velvet Underground, Warhol Estate Battle Over Banana
"The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."   (Polygram)

(Newser) – The Velvet Underground is taking the Warhol Foundation to court over the rights to rock and roll's best-known banana. The surviving members of the band argue that the banana illustration then-manager Andy Warhol created for their massively influential 1967 debut album has become their trademark, and Warhol's estate had no right to sell it to a maker of iPod cases, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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The band didn't trademark the banana at the time, but members earned the rights to it through more than 25 years of association with the image, the lawsuit argues. "The banana design became a symbol, truly an icon, of The Velvet Underground," the suit reads. Experts believe the path ahead may be slippery for the rockers' lawyers. "This isn't necessarily going to be easy," a copyright lawyer notes. "After all, Andy Warhol's name is also on the cover." (Read more Lou Reed stories.)

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