Over the years, Metallica has developed a reputation for being litigious. Although time has proven to be on the band’s side in regards to file sharing as an existential threat to musicians, their antagonism towards fans during the infamous Napster lawsuit made Metallica persona-non-grata among a segment of music consumers for years to come.
Thing is, Napster was far from the only entity that Metallica had taken to court. The band sued a major perfume company to block the sale of a Metallica-inspired line of fragrances, a luxury tire company over a limited edition Metallica wheel, lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret for a Metallica lip pencil, and countless others.
Circumstances being as they were, the internet briefly whipped itself into a fury over a rumor that Metallica were suing a Canadian Christian-metal band called Unfaith for their use of the guitar chords E and F, which Metallica had allegedly trademarked.
Here’s the thing: The lawsuit was a total hoax.
Freelance commercial designer and Unfaith vocalist Erik Ashley concocted the ruse, which directed users to a fictional MTV.com story about the lawsuit, complete with fabricated responses from the band including the prerequisite Lars Ulrich comment: “People are going to get on our case again for this, but try to see it from our point of view just once. We’re not saying we own those two chords individually-that would be ridiculous. We’re just saying that in that specific order people have grown to associate E, F with our music.”
The piece went on to claim that Metallica were demanding 50% of all Unfaith revenue generated by songs using the E – F chord progression.
After the article generated 200,000 hits in two days, Ashley took to Unfaith’s official website to say: “[what] originally began as something of a psychology study on Metallica’s reputation instead turned into an exposé on how dangerous the Internet-and its media-can be.
“We all know about the Napster issue, the perfume company, the lipstick company, the tire makers, Metallica has sued them all. However, the idea behind this parody was to gauge, after all that litigation, just how willing America was to buy a story as extraordinary-as outlandish-as them claiming ownership of a two-chord progression.”
For their part, Metallica seemed to take the faux-lawsuit as an act of harmless fun. “That’s so awesome! I find that extremely funny,” said James Hetfield when asked about the incident by Rocky Mountain News.