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Author Says Toyota Stole His B.B. King Story

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A man who found a stolen Gibson ES-355 guitar in a Las Vegas pawn shop and tracked down its owner - B.B. King - claims Toyota stole from his book about it to make a Camry commercial.

Eric Dahl in 2013 wrote a copyrighted book, "B.B. King's Lucille and the Loves Before Her." Three chapters tell "a very specific story wherein he discovered and purchased a Gibson Lucille guitar in a pawn shop in Las Vegas in 2009 for $2,161.99," Dahl says in his federal lawsuit.

Lucille, or various Lucilles, were an essential part of King's act for decades, not just for the way he played it, or her, but for stories he told about her - for instance, that she saved his life once by holding his car off him after he had flipped it.

Dahl says he researched the origin of the guitar from the pawn shop and "established that the Gibson Lucille ... was the original 'Prototype 1' 80th birthday Gibson Lucille which had been presented to B.B. King on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2005" by its manufacturer, Gibson Guitar.

"King had used that guitar in his performances between 2005 and the summer of 2009 when the guitar was stolen from his home," Dahl says in the Oct. 21 complaint. He "agreed to return the guitar to Mr. King without compensation and a meeting was arranged in November of 2009 where he went to Mr. King's office and presented the recovered guitar to Mr. King personally."

Dahl adds: "In appreciation, Mr. King had arranged to have another Gibson Lucille present, which he autographed and gifted to him during the meeting."

Now Toyota is using that very story in a commercial for the 2015 Camry, an "adapted visual interpretation of the story contained in chapters 25, 26 and 27 of the book," Dahl says.

"Specifically, the ad depicts a young woman who purchases a storage unit and, according to the voice-over narration, 'found an old guitar' (with 'Lucille' written on it), 'tracked down the previous owner,' (who was B.B). King, 'reunited them' and 'hit the jackpot' (when she was gifted with an autographed guitar by Mr. King in return).'" (Parentheses as in complaint.)

Dahl says members of Gibson Guitar who were aware of his book and the story of the returned Gibson Lucille prototype were consulted by Toyota and the advertising production crew and confirmed the ad is based on the account in Dahl's book.

He claims Toyota obviously "had access to the story as related in the book."

Dahl says the ad "constitutes a derivative work of the copyrighted work," that only he "has the exclusive right to create derivative works from his copyrighted material," and that he "has not issued or otherwise granted a license or other permission to Toyota or others to use his copyrighted work for any purpose."

Dahl seeks any profits that can be attributed to the ad, statutory and general damages from defendants Toyota Motor Sales USA, advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi North America and ad producer Smuggler, an injunction, attorney's fees and costs.

He is represented by Jeffrey Galliher and Ryan Dennett.

Riley B. King, known as B.B., 89, is one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, instantly recognizable by his tone and acute choice of notes.

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