A video of two Bank of America employees singing a version of U2’s “One” to commemorate their company’s acquisition of MBNA recently made the rounds of the blogs, prompting amusement and some ridicule from online viewers.
But the intended comic effect of their performance and the retooled lyrics (“One spirit, we get to share it/Leading us all to higher standards”) seemed lost on lawyers on the lookout for copyright violations.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Universal Music Publishing Group, a catalog owner and administrator, posted the text of a cease-and-desist letter in the comments section of Stereogum.com, a Web site carrying the video. It contended that Bank of America had violated Universal’s copyright of the U2 song.
The two employees featured in the video were the guitarist, Jim Debois, a consumer market executive for Manhattan, and the singer, Ethan Chandler, a Manhattan banking center manager, who provoked much of the ridicule with his earnest interpretation and also for straying a bit far from U2’s lyrics with lines like “Integration has never had us feeling so good/and we’ll make lots of money.”
Mr. Chandler, who has independently released an album and is working on another, said he was asked to write and perform the song for an August meeting of credit card division executives at MBNA headquarters in Wilmington, Del.
He said he was surprised to learn about the cease-and-desist letter, stressing that his performance was meant for an internal audience. “There was an approved list of songs to use,” he said, “and as far I knew, that was an approved song.”
Universal said on Stereogum that it had sent the letter by fax and registered mail to Bank of America last Monday. On Friday, a bank spokeswoman, Betsy Weinberger, said the legal department had not yet received it.
The letter was signed by Raul R. Gonzalez, a lawyer for Universal Music. Reached at his office, Mr. Gonzalez said, “No comment” and hung up.
Online commentators accustomed to viral marketing said they suspected that the video was the latest corporate attempt to co-opt Internet video for promotional purposes. But Ms. Weinberger said it was “absolutely not” leaked by Bank of America as a marketing ploy.
Mr. Chandler also denied any involvement in leaking the video, although he admitted that, despite the cutting online criticism, the incident had an upside. “A lot of people thought it was fake, but I really do sing,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”