SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Boots Riley and four other “positive” rap artists claim the National Tobacco Company used their names and images without permission to promote Zig-Zag cigarette papers.
The exclusive distributor of Zig-Zag papers in the United States has sponsored the “Zig-Zag Live City Tour” since 2006, paying “Zig-Zag Artists” to play concerts and promote the cigarette papers on the Web site ZigZagLive.com, according to two federal lawsuits filed here.
Riley, whose given first name is Raymond, claims he never played a single date on the tour but if he had, he would have made about $285,000 in sponsorship fees. As a member of the “positive” rap movement, which promotes spirituality, introspection and uplifting themes, Riley says, he would never promote tobacco products.
The rap group Lifesavas – Solomon David, Marlon Irving, Timothy Parker and Xavier Mosley – better known together as Blackilicous, also sued the Zig-Zag distributor, alleging misappropriation of rights of publicity, unfair competition, and false designation of origin.
Anthony McNamer represents the rappers, who want the money they would have made as “Zig-Zag Artists,” punitive damages, and disgorgement of unjust profits.