The Miami-Dade School Board’s attorneys have demanded that Sony Music Entertainment and Kemosabe Records stop the sale and distribution of a raunchy video that features members of Miami Northwestern’s marching band along with rappers and exotic dancers.
An attorney for rapper Lil Wayne, who was a guest performer in the video, sent a letter Thursday to Sony’s general counsel, asking the company to stop using images of the students.
The video for Bandz A Make Her Dance, debuted Sunday and has stirred furor among the Northwestern community.
School leaders gave approval for six band members to perform for the video, under the impression it would be like a drum line. But the result is an explicit remix video of a strip club anthem by rapper Juicy J, with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.
Ronald Sweeney, an attorney representing Lil Wayne, wrote in an email to school district attorneys that the performer did not participate in the creation of the video beyond his own appearance.
“We do not own or control any of the rights to the video and have no interest other than a publishing interest in the new version of the song,” Sweeney wrote, according to a memo from School Board attorney Walter Harvey.
The district’s attorneys had argued the video had the “unauthorized publication of likenesses of students” and violated intellectual property rights associated with the Northwestern Bulls trademarks.
Students wore Northwestern band uniforms; the school’s famed Bull mascot and the letters “MNW” appear in the video.
Said Jarrod Knight, with the Northwestern alumni association: “Their lawyers should have been well knowing enough not to put high school students with those explicit things. That does not match.”
Thomas Julin, a local attorney who deals with media and First Amendment issues, said a legal challenge could be difficult. It first depends on whatever written agreement may have been made. There also is a common law right of publicity, but that gets tricky when it comes to entertainment.
“Ordinarily, you have control over your own likeness when it’s used in advertising. But if it’s used in some other expressive work, other than advertising, then it’s more difficult to stop that use,” Julin explained.