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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
What's in a band's name?
The Raconteurs - or Saboteurs - are Jack White's 'side project'
Rock star Jack White has had to change the title of his new band, The Raconteurs, in Australia after a Queensland group already using that name refused to give it up.

How important is a band's name?

The Queensland group were offered money by the American Raconteurs' label to give up the name, but turned it down - and in Australia Jack White's band are now known as The Saboteurs.

It is not the first time such a thing has happened. British groups The Charlatans and Suede both had to add UK or London to their name when they toured in the US, as American acts also existed with those names.

Meanwhile, Pink Floyd, Guns 'n' Roses and Chilean band Quilapayun have all been caught up in legal action following group splits, with members arguing over the rights to the name.

Quilapayun, one of South America's most successful bands, went into exile in France in 1973 following a military coup, and since then the band's line-up has regularly changed.

However, since 1999 two different groups of musicians have released albums under the Quilapayun name - one made up of the original founding members, the other led Rodolfo Parada, who joined the band three years after it formed.

"Now, there is a crisis with Quilapayun," Ricardo Venegas, one of the members of the "historic" Quilapayun, told BBC World Service's The Beat programme.

"Three or four years ago, one of the members, the director, appropriated the name. We did not agree with that. The name Quilapayun belongs to many people. Look at The Beatles - the name does not belong just to Paul McCartney."

Increasing problem

A French court is set to decide ultimately which set of musicians can use the name Quilapayun, but for now both release albums using it.

The case highlights the legal minefield surrounding band names. Music lawyer Martin Whitehead told The Beat that the experience of Quilapayun is "happening all over the world."

The original Quilapayun now sometimes add the prefix "historic"
"It is happening more and more as bands find out about other bands over the internet," he added.

"Increasingly, bands are coming across other bands with the same name. So it's becoming a problem."

Most cases are settled with the addition of a suffix denoting the country of origin, such as a "-UK", when a group releases material overseas.

"Very often, bands realise they have built up a reputation in their own country, and it's very difficult to pull that apart," Mr Whitehead explained..

"At the end of the day, a judge is probably going to say, 'when you go to America, you have to cal yourself this to distinguish yourself from the American band, and vice versa'.

"No-one ends up claiming everything - they have to compromise."

Famous splits

But in some cases a dispute cannot be solved this way.

Mr Whitehead added that while a band can trademark their name, this costs a lot of money and has to be done in every country a band is to perform in - and repeated regularly.

Suede were among the bands changing their name on tour
"Really, unless you're a big band that's generating millions of pounds a year, to maintain all those trademarks is going to cost too much money," he said.

And when famous bands split - such as Quilapayun - it can be tricky to decide who gets the rights to the name.

"If Quilapayun had seen a lawyer before they formed, they would probably have been told to have a formal partnership agreement, or to form a company which all the members of the band would be directors of," Mr Whitehead said.

"Then when members leave the band, they leave the partnership and the partnership would own the name.

"Otherwise, if you throw out the guitarist, the guitarist can form a new band under that name - and there's really very little to stop them."

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