Sony's publishing arm, which owns the rights to the Beatles catalog, has ordered the Milwaukee band to take down its Web site and pay unspecified damages for recording songs like "Leper Madonna" and "Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice."
Beatallica says it is not ripping off Beatles songs, but parodying them in a loving tribute that is protected by copyright laws. The Web site has been taken offline while the band considers its legal options.
"I think they're being very shortsighted. The amount of income that we generate from this is minuscule. None of us are quitting our day jobs," said David Dixon, the band's "Webmaster of Puppets."
Beatallica formed in 2001 as a one-off Metallica tribute band for a local festival, but soon hit upon the idea of adapting Beatles songs to Metallica's heavy-metal format.
Dixon posted their songs online, attracting fan mail from all over the world. Dixon estimates that more than 1 million copies of the band's songs have been downloaded for free or traded through online file-sharing networks.
The band hired lawyers to make sure it did not run afoul of copyright and trademark laws.
But on Feb. 24, Beatallica received a letter from Sony/ATV Music Publishing demanding that the band take down its Web site and pay Sony an "amount to be discussed."
"Such uses of Sony/ATV compositions without the express authorization or license has caused and continues to cause substantial and irreparable injury, and is in direct violation of Sony/ATV's rights," the letter said.
While the site remains offline, the band's songs can be easily found through offshore Web sites. Nearly 6,000 supporters have signed an online petition demanding Sony drop the case.
Dixon said the band had even created new Beatles fans.
"We've had many people who've written to the site, especially young headbangers, who have said, 'I've always hated the Beatles' music, but I think I'm going to check it out now,"' he said. "It's a bit of an outreach project crossing generations."