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Canadian folk group sues Jonny & Phil’s Wyrd Sisters

15-year-old folk band The Wyrd Sisters are suing Warner Brothers Entertainment Canada, Warner Brothers Records, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Radiohead’s Phil Selway and Jonny Greenwood for trademark infringement in an Ontario court as Chart Attack reports.

Here’s the problem: In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire there’s a band of wizards called The Wyrd Sisters, who play at the Hogwarts Yule Ball. In the movie, due out November 18, Cocker, Selway and Greenwood play these rock ‘n’ roll wizards, originally under the same name.

Of course, this pissed off the Juno-nominated Wyrd Sisters. Singer and band co-founder Kim Baryluk says if their name is used in the Harry Potter movie it’ll mean the end for these folkies.

“[Harry Potter] is so much more huge than us in their reach that we’ll go out on tour a month after the movie comes out &@8212; and we’ll go all over to Australia, to New Zealand &@8212; and people will wonder who are these strange people stealing the Harry Potter name?”

Baryluk was first made aware of this conflict back in June after Warner sent her a letter offering her $5,000 to share their name. She quickly realized that sharing a band name with characters in a Harry Potter film could cause some trouble so she turned down their offer. Baryluk says getting her band off the ground again — which could involve a name change — will cost significantly more than $5,000 or the $50,000 Warner later offered.

“Do you know what I’ve spent on the band in the past 10 years?” says Baryluk. “In the last 10 years I’ve spent more than a million dollars. Offering me $50,000 is more than an insult.”

So what does Warner say about all this? Although they said they don’t comment on pending litigation, they did point out in a statement that the band in the movie don’t have a name and that they have no intention to use The Wyrd Sisters moniker.

Radiohead’s management were willing to clarify this a little further.

“[Jonny and Phil] were asked to be in the film to be The Wyrd Sisters, which is what J.K. Rowling called the band and then there’s this [Canadian] band called The Wyrd Sisters, so now they can’t be called The Wyrd Sisters,” says a member of Radiohead’s management, who didn’t want to be named. “The [Canadian] Wyrd Sisters are just trying to sue them for namesake. The whole story is just a couple of people in a band trying to get some money.”

Radiohead’s management reiterated that the name The Wyrd Sisters won’t be used in the movie. “In the film they’re not being called by that name.”

Baryluk’s lawyer, Kimbery-Townley Smith, says she’s heard Warner won’t use the name, but that the damage has already been done — people already associate The Wyrd Sisters with Harry Potter.

“If you go on the ‘net now and put in Harry Potter and Wyrd Sisters you get 6,000 hits or something crazy like that. People know already and that’s because up until recently Warner had them credited and the official word was that the name of the band was The Wyrd Sisters. They’ve already created an association between the name and the band and that’s all you need.”

Suing Warner is one thing, but does Baryluk really need to go after 20 per cent of Radiohead?

“They’re the band,” says Townley-Smith. “Whether Warner made them or paid them, they were performing as The Wyrd Sisters. We hope there’s artists respect there as well.”

Warner and the Canadian Wyrd Sisters have been discussing their problem since June and in that time Baryluk says she’s had to cancel a tour, postpone a CD release and had one band member quit because “she needed to do business and couldn’t sit around.”

Baryluk knows that fighting a huge conglomerate and some pretty successful rock starts will be difficult, but she feels she has to do it.

“I really feel that morally we have the right to own our name and we have a right to go about our business without interference. And anybody other than Warner would not dare to step on our dignity. Warner has this attitude that they can do what they want because they are big and huge and we’re just flies and I think they’re wrong. How else am I supposed to do my business?”

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