And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #261: Deadmau5 v Deadmouse – The Musical

By | Published on Friday 19 June 2015


Last year, when Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, hit back at Disney’s opposition to a trademark registration he had submitted for various images relating to his on-stage persona, we noted the high comedy value of his response. He and his lawyer Dina LaPolt seemed to revel in the absurdity of the famously litigious corporation’s claim, even fighting back with a pedantic copyright-technicality-related countersuit.

However, it’s looking like Deadmau5 doesn’t actually have an amazing sense of humour, retaining legal counsel just in case the opportunity for comedic legal submissions arise. Rather, he’s simply sitting there ready to go legal at the drop of a hat, and just happened to be funny that time because of the absurdity of Disney’s claims. We base this new thought on his action this week against ‘Deadmouse: The Musical’, a musical set to be staged at the Toronto Fringe next month about a mouse who wants to become a DJ but struggles due to the fact he is a mouse.

According to the festival’s website, “‘Deadmouse: The Musical’ is a comedy about a mouse who aspires to be a house DJ but is discriminated against for being a mouse. Joel Zimmermouse must team up with his best friend David Goudda and his flame, Cat, to overcome species-ist discrimination and the mouse hating house DJ Avicheese”.

Now, it may as yet turn out to be awful, but the premise for this show is reasonably funny – sufficiently so that quite a few publications reported on the production earlier this week. As a result, the low-key show came to the attention of Deadmau5 himself. And he did not find the premise reasonably funny at all. “How not to be creative”, he wrote on Twitter, captioning a photograph of a cease-and-desist letter. I think he meant the production wasn’t creative, rather than his kneejerk legal reaction.

“Zimmerman’s trademarks are some of his most valuable assets and he has spent considerable time and resources in developing, promoting and protecting the Deadmau5 mark”, wrote LaPolt on the producer’s behalf. “In order to maintain the value and integrity of the same, Zimmerman is charged with the duty of policing the Deadmau5 marks to ensure that they are not infringed upon, tarnished, or diluted by the unauthorized use of the same or similar marks by other parties”.

The letter did then note that “Zimmerman appreciates that the creators of the infringing event may be paying tribute to him”. Paying tribute! It’s a tribute now. You’d think most people would look at the synopsis and assume this was a parody of some sort, but Deadmau5 isn’t so certain. “That’s why it’s always best to approach people beforehand”, he wrote, tweeting the second page of the letter, which gave the theatre and the show’s producers 24 hours to shut this shit down.

Of course, parody rights exist (and even here in the UK now) to ensure that people don’t have to get permission from the people they are parodying. It makes it quite hard to poke fun at people if you have to ask for their permission first.

Someone (actually various people) pointed out on Twitter that this show was clearly a parody. But Deadmau5 disagreed, because nowhere in the blurb about the musical (that’s a musical about a mouse who wants to become a DJ) did it state that it was a parody. “There seems to be a lot of confusion on the matter”, countered the producer.

For the most part, the confusion seemed to lie with Deadmau5 and his legal team. And anyone else who thought that a show on the Toronto fringe about a DJing mouse and his friends was in any way related to the actual Deadmau5 is probably a lost cause anyway. These are the sort of people who phone up ITV to complain about the use of a ‘stunt dog’ in a dog show.

But clarity was all Deadmau5 wanted in the end. So when a disclaimer was added noting that this was a performance “not featuring the music of Deadmau5”, he seemed happy. “There”, he tweeted. “The dead mouse musical debacle is settled. They have just put up a disclaimer and called it a parody. Moving along now”.

It was all so easy in the end. I think the thing we could probably all take from this is Deadmau5’s own assertion that “it’s always best to approach people beforehand”. Maybe before firing off an expensive legal letter.