Two years ago, Rob Zombie learned that music from his triple platinum 1998 album “Hellbilly Deluxe” had been used without his permission for a Mazda Truck TV commercial. Upon first hearing from fans about the commercial, Zombie believed that they were mistaken, but after viewing the TV spot himself, he realized it was true. Zombie immediately called his attorney, Jeffrey Light, and proceeded with a law suit.
“They [Mazda and The Doner Agency] don’t seem to understand that once the cat’s out of the bag it’s hard to get him back in there,” Zombie explains. “It’s like [my policy is] ‘I don’t do this’ and then there’s a car commercial running on television with my music. How do you explain to every kid that you didn’t sell out and didn’t do exactly what you said you weren’t going to do? Basically it’s a question of what your reputation is worth. And Mazda takes it so lightly – like, ‘Oh, whatever.’ And I just don’t see it that way.”
“It is a colossal shame that these people have stolen this music,” says Light. “Rob is a guy who has stood as far apart from corporate America as any artist I’ve ever worked with and for somebody to come along and unilaterally say, ‘We’re just going to take this music and deal with the aftermath later – fix it with a dollar figure,’ is not really my idea of responsible corporate citizenship.”
After two years of preliminary court proceedings, the case will finally make it to trial in mid-July. Mazda has refrained from commenting on the case or making any settlement offers to Zombie and company. Among the issues to be resolved before a judge are whether Doner willfully stole the music from the original recording, whether Mazda was complicit in that theft and/or whether the original music was used by mistake on the part of the ad agency. Whatever explanations are posited, copyright infringement is only part of the issue. For Zombie, it’s a case of corporate infringement on principles that he holds dear.
“Someone like Britney Spears doesn’t have any integrity to maintain so it doesn’t matter – she’s a corporate puppet from the get-go,” Zombie observes. “But for people who AREN’T, it’s different. I don’t want to play that song live and see the kids go,’Hey! It’s the truck song!’ Corporate America doesn’t understand that some people actually have values about things. Everything isn’t for sale.”