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Rock museum sues to stop Jewish rock Web site

Virtual tribute to Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and others incurs the trademark wrath of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is all shook up--or as they might say in Yiddish, all "verklempt" (upset)--over the name for a virtual museum celebrating the Jewish contribution to rock music.

The Cleveland-based museum has asked a federal judge to stop two journalists and a radio company executive from putting up a Web site called the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying the site will infringe on the original's trademark name and that the public would confuse the two.

But the people behind the Web site said they cannot understand why the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame is making such a "tsimmes" (Yiddish for big deal) over their plans to celebrate the exploits of such diverse talents as Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, some of the Ramones, Lou Reed and Elvis Presley's tailor, "Nudie" Cohen.

Their nonprofit Web site, which is not up and running yet, plans to publish articles on the Internet about Jews who rock.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland, the museum said journalists David Segal, Jeffrey Goldberg and radio executive Allen Goldberg "misappropriated Rock Hall's substantial intellectual property rights as well as the goodwill associated therewith. Unless the court, such conduct will, permit defendants to gain an unfair advantage over Rock Hall."

It said the Cleveland museum has suffered irreparable harm and was seeking damages in excess of $100,000.

Regan Fay, a lawyer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has attracted 5.5 million visitors since opening in 1995, said calling something the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was going to confuse people.

"I don't think people would know the difference (between the two). We have a lot of Jewish rock and rollers in the Hall of Fame...It's like saying the Jewish Oscars or the Jewish Football Hall of Fame," he said, adding:

"It is a well-known trademark principal that putting your name in front of another name is a trademark infringement, like you can't call something a Jewish McDonald's because then people would think it is McDonald's that is kosher."

In court papers, the Hall of Fame said it has honored "numerous performers, songwriters and producers with Jewish heritage" including "Cleveland's own Alan 'Moondog' Freed," a disc jockey who helped popularize the music.

Jeffrey Goldberg, Washington correspondent for the New Yorker, said, "Speaking as a layman, I don't think they own rock and roll and I don't think they own the phrase 'Hall of Fame' and I know for sure they don't own the Jews."

Segal, a Washington Post reporter and former rock critic for that paper, said, "The ideas that anyone would confuse a large museum with a Web site run by a couple of Jewish guys with a computer is amazing to me, especially since it isn't even up yet."

Segal said the Web site would include articles about Jews in rock and roll, from record company executive Clive Davis to singer Bob Dylan to tailor "Nudie" Cohen, who designed suits for Elvis and Hank Williams. One piece would analyze references to the torah in Dylan's lyrics.