12 July 2019
A new line of sour IPAs released by Foreign Objects Beer Company under the brand Discord Beer Co. has managed to create discord with punk rock fans.
The founders of Foreign Objects Beer Co. launched a new brewing company called Discord Beer Co. to focus exclusively on sour IPAs and included the following image in the press release:
Add an “H”, replace “beer” with “records”, make it black and white, and you have the very well-known logo, in punk rock circles at least, of Dischord Records:
The blowback from fans was more or less immediate. The company pulled the image and released the following statement:
“The Discord image in question was created for Instagram as an homage to Dischord Records. It was never intended for widespread use such as a part of a press release. To cease all confusion we have removed the image.”
Credit to the company for promptly dealing with the matter, but it was never really an appropriate ‘homage’.
Dischord Records was co-founded by Ian MacKaye, the front-man of the influential hardcore punk band Minor Threat and the post-hardcore band Fugazi. Along with Minor Threat, Mackaye is credited with coining the term “straight edge” to describe a personal ideology that promotes abstinence from alcohol and other drugs (listen here – it’s only 45 seconds). MacKaye has stated many times that he did not intend to turn it into a movement, but “straight edge” is a distinct sub-culture nonetheless, and refraining from using alcohol is a central part of it (see here).
What did we learn here, apart from a history lesson in punk rock and an introduction into the straight edge sub-culture? Homage is a tricky thing, but if you’re going to use someone else’s art, you need permission. My guess is that it would not have been forthcoming here. Also, branding and marketing clearance is clearly more than a trade mark search.