Members of the original funk band War say they can’t be friends with PepsiCo.
They’re suing the soft drink maker for more than US$10 million, saying it did not negotiate with them to use their song Why Can’t We Be Friends? in a new commercial.
Even if PepsiCo and its agencies got rights from the music’s publishers or anyone else who owns them, lawyers Ken Freundlich and Max Sprecher said the company should have negotiated with the artists too.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles, some of the group’s original members and a relative said they learned the 1975 hit was in the ad for Pepsi MAX only when the commercials launched in July.
PepsiCo said in a statement it believes the lawsuit has no merit.
“Pepsi has a long history of partnering with iconic celebrities and musicians and we value our relationship with the music and entertainment industry,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.
A spokesman for ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day declined to comment on Thursday, referring all questions to PepsiCo.
The ad is part of a campaign pushing the no-calorie Pepsi MAX.
The War members have asked for a jury trial and “confiscation of unlawful profits” in amount to be determined.
Original members listed in the lawsuit are Harold Brown, Lee Oskar Levitin, Howard Scott, and Morris Dickerson. Laurian Miller, daughter of Charles Miller, is also a plaintiff.
“Pepsi is selling its billion-dollar brand based on their voices and they have to pay for it,” Freundlich said.