Punk Band No One Has Heard Of Just Hit The Publicity Jackpot

Dan Gibson / February 18, 2009


Local punk bands looking for a way to offend people in the Internet age will do just about anything that might bring them some sort of publicity. (Short of actually being interesting or good, that is.) So, it probably should have surprised no one here in Tucson that local punk act The Awful Truth was willing to use a photo of a dead local police officer for its album art less than a year after said officer was killed in the line of duty. And adding to that controversy is the fact that the picture was “borrowed” from a local newspaper.

The Arizona Daily Star has filed a civil suit against the members of a local punk-rock band that used a photograph of slain Tucson police Officer Erik Hite on its album cover.

The complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, says Awful Truth committed copyright infringement when it used the photo for its album titled “Kill a Cop for God.”

The photo, taken by Star photographer James S. Wood, shows officers giving medical attention to Hite, who had been shot in the head on June 1, 2008, during a crosstown chase and shooting spree.

“This is an image that is obviously . . . very sensitive to our community,” Star Managing Editor Teri Hayt said. “A police officer killed in our community – it doesn’t get more serious than that.”

I would hope that the Arizona Daily Star would pursue anyone using its photographers’ work for profit, but I suppose this particular case is a little easier to get the public’s sympathy for than, say, one involving a band using an action shot from a Sahuaro/Sabino varsity football matchup. We live in a messy world of convoluted ideas regarding intellectual property, so be thankful, those of you seeking to bring in a new age of “sampling”—you have a new spokesman.

Awful Truth lead singer David Stine, 30, said Tuesday that he had not seen the complaint, but he didn’t think there was anything wrong with using the photo to promote the band’s album.

“They used it in the newspaper,” Stine said. “I figured once you see something in the newspaper . . . I didn’t think they were trying to keep it for themselves.”

Whether the Arizona Daily Star should have run the photo in the first place is probably a worthy question, but it doesn’t appear that Stine is the sort to spend too much time thinking. Sadly, however, his band The Awful Truth might not be able to capitalize on this sudden burst of fame. Their Myspace page is down, they may still be looking for a drummer, their disc isn’t available for sale at the local punk record shop (at least in their online inventory), and if they play a gig anytime in the near future, it’s possible there might be an angry mob waiting. Was it worth it, lead singer David Stine, 30? Was it?

Star sues band for slain-cop photo use [Arizona Daily Star; HT Jon Solomon]