Business News Legal Media

Hugo Boss accused of ripping off The xx for ad

By | Published on Tuesday 7 October 2014

The xx

XL affiliate Young Turks has cried foul on Hugo Boss for an advert it put out earlier this year with a soundtrack that sounds very similar indeed to ‘Intro’ by one of the label’s bands The xx.

Although the advert has apparently been around since April, it seems Young Turks has only recently become aware of it. Pigeons And Planes spotted that last Friday the label took to Twitter to ask the German fashion company: “As a firm built around original design, isn’t it odd that you’d pay for such a poorly disguised fake?” The tweet then linked to the Hugo Boss commercial on YouTube.

The two soundtracks are so similar that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ad’s music was an official rework of The xx’s track, though seemingly not. The assumption on the label’s part, presumably, is that Hugo Boss, or its ad agency, deliberately commissioned an original soundtrack that sounds incredibly like ‘Intro’, rather than trying to licence the use of the original, either to save money, or because they didn’t think they’d get permission from the band, or their label and publisher.

The xx are by no means the first band to accuse ad agencies of ripping off their music rather than syncing an original track, with Sohn recently accusing Audi of borrowing from one of his tunes and Beach House hitting out at Volkswagon back in 2012. Meanwhile, Tom Waits famously settled with car firm Opel over his soundalike ad-song allegations in 2007.

Actually, given it’s usually car firms who rip off songs to save money on sync, it’s interesting to see fashion companies are capable of such an act too, I guess. Though there’s a car in Hugo Boss’s ad, so perhaps that’s how the song rip off came about.

Legally speaking this is a tricky and rather grey area of copyright law – when does inspiration become infringement? – and any litigation would follow a similar form to more conventional plagiarism cases, such as the ongoing ‘Blurred Lines’ dispute. Though if and when ad agencies are threatened with legal action, they usually settle out of court to avoid the bad press. Which means there is even less legal precedent to fall back on.

Anyway, why not check out the similarities for yourself with the Hugo Boss ad and The xx video below? Though when I played The xx vid on YouTube earlier, it helpfully ran the Hugo Boss commercial as a pre-roll. I’m not sure whether that’s a further insult to the band and their label, though at least they’ll have earned a nice 0.0000000001p in ad-share royalties.

Hugo Boss ad

The xx track

UPDATE 7 Oct 12.45: The full-length Hugo Boss advert has now been taken off YouTube “due to a copyright claim by UMPI”. You can still (at least for now) watch the shorter version embedded above though.