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The Velvet Underground Sue to Free Their Iconic Banana

Velvet Underground, Universal Music

Lou Reed and John Cale of the Velvet Underground are taking legal action to free the banana! That is, the banana on the cover of the groundbreaking 1967 debut album, as created by Andy Warhol.

The famous “peel slowly and see” sleeve art featuring the banana became synonymous with both Warhol and the Velvet Underground, but now, the Andy Warhol Foundation has sold the image to Apple for use on a new line of iPads, iPhones and accessories.

As reported in Courthouse News Service, Reed and Cale are seeking “exemplary and treble damages for false designation of origin, unfair competition and misappropriation.” In addition, they want the image to be put in public domain, saying “the image legally belongs to the public,” but adding it culturally belongs to them.

According to a New York Times story on the case, the legal complaint states that “the Warhol Foundation has sought to justify its unlawful licensing activities involving the mark by asserting that it has a copyright interest in the banana design, despite the incontrovertible fact that the banana design, insofar as copyright rights are concerned, is in the public domain.”

Though universally ignored upon its release, the Velvet Underground’s debut album has gone on to become a touchstone of rock and roll, cited by countless bands as a primary influence. Songs like ‘Waiting For The Man,’ ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ and ‘Heroin’ became standards for a certain breed of alternative rockers. It has routinely rode high on many a best album of all time list. Unlike Reed’s last album, ‘Lulu,’ his ill-fated collaboration with Metallica.

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