Alternative Tentacles Under Fire By Philly Police

Winston Smith cover art for a Dead Kennedy's album.

Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label have been sued

by the Philadelphia Police Department. It seems a Lansing , Michigan hardcore

band called the Crucifucks (who haven't even been together for ten years),

released a compilation record on AT in 1992 entitled Our Will Be Done.

This particular album included a publicity picture released by the Philadelphia

Police Department depicting an officer murdered in the line of duty, originally

released to heighten public awareness of the growing brutality against police

officers in the city of Brotherly Love, with the headline "You Wouldn't

sacrifice your life for a million bucks. A Philadelphia Police officer does it

for a lot less." In the suit, the police dept. alleges that the band

appropriated the image as sleeve art for the back cover, and eliminated the

text--as well as changing the name of the city on the door of a police car from

Philadelphia to Lansing--without getting permission to use the 1985 photograph.

So Imagine the Fraternal Order of Police's surprise when they found that

very same photo that they had commissioned had been used as the back cover of a

punk group's album. And not just any punk rock band, mind you, but a

politically aware, satirical, no bull shit kind of punk band created in the

mold of Jello Biafra's Dead Kennedys (who had their own confrontations with the

law over H. R. Giger's poster, "Penis Landscape," that was included with the

Dead Kennedys 1985 album FrankenChrist). The model for the photo was

Philadelphia police offer John Whalen, who along with the Fraternal Order of

Police filed a lawsuit on February 7 accusing the now disbanded group,

Crucifucks, it's record label, Alternative Tentacles, and record company fonder

Jello Biafra (nee Eric Boucher) of illegally appropriating the Whalen photo and

then using it "in a manner intended to glorify violence against, and the murder

of police officers." The suit also stated that even though the album, Our

Will Be Done, was released in 1992, it only come to the attention of the

FOP and Whalen three weeks ago, when a friend of his told him they had seen the

photo adorning the album in Border Books in Philadelphia. Whalen told the

reporters at a press conference on February 7 that "I just want to hurt them

any way I can. I want to hurt them in the pocketbook." Whalen has pledged any

money recovered from the lawsuit to the Hero Scholarship Fund. FOP president

Richard Costello echoed Whalen's sentiments saying "This is trash, human

excrement." (Actually, ATN things that Biafra, who once ran for mayor in San

Francisco, is a true American hero, but then that's another story.)

This

whole brouhaha took Alternative Tentacles by surprise. According to label

spokesman and president Greg Werckman, they just assumed that the band had

gotten clearance for the artwork when they submitted it for the cover. "We

didn't feel any reason to question it," said Werckman.

Werckman says the

album is out of print and that 2,000 copies were pressed, and 1,200 sold. "Yeah

it was a real big seller. With all this publicity maybe we'll have to have

another photograph." As of press time, AT still had not been served papers on

the copyright

infringement.