Dweezil Zappa: Last Name Copyright Struggle Continues [Opinion]

Zappa. Anyone with ears knows the name, right? What about the rights to the name? Dweezil has been a Zappa since the day he landed on the planet, and he’s worked under the moniker Dweezil Zappa since 1982. So why in the world are his younger siblings, Ahmet and Diva, hellbent on copyrighting the Zappa name?

When a firstborn son has to fight in court to use his own last name, something is very wrong

Just a few hours ago, Dweezil announced a public campaign to save his right to use the Zappa last name. Hosted by Pledge Music, The Others of Intention campaign is offering original music downloads along with a splendid selection of merch to fund Dweezil’s quest to retain the legal right to use the Zappa last name. Donors are invited to participate in the 90-day pledge campaign by purchasing items ranging from a digital access pass to Zappa-inscribed guitar picks to limited edition Zappa artwork and vinyl record albums.

Additionally, The Others of Intention campaign offers a select assortment of one-of-a-kind Zappa guitars for sale. At the time of this writing, Dweezil’s famous chartreuse green axe is sold, but interested donors can still pick up the pickups, Floyd Rose tremolo, and every other part of the rare silver sparkle Stratocaster that Dweezil toured with in the early ’90s. Custom built by Fender master luthier J.W. Black to Dweezil’s own specifications, the 8-pound thin-line Strat is slated to add $12,500 to Frank Zappa’s eldest son’s legal coffers.

Last May, Dweezil published a blog titled “It Can Happen Here” at his website. The open letter to Zappa fans described an upcoming tour and strongly alluded to a pending legal battle to save his right to the surname Zappa.

“Beyond that, there have been a few other changes. Mainly name changes. As you may or may not know I now tour under my own name, Dweezil Zappa, instead of Zappa Plays Zappa because my brother Ahmet and my sister Diva who run the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT) claimed ownership of the name Zappa Plays Zappa which my mother trademarked in 2007. The heavily tweezed language appropriating that trademark was designed by my mother to distinguish between the 2 uses of Zappa. One indicating Frank Zappa and the other indicating any other Zappa ‘family member’ who wishes to use the name to publicly tour and play the music. This of course is silly considering no other family member is capable of playing Frank Zappa’s music nor have they shown any intent to go out and do so in the past 11 years. Curiously, the one that is capable and has been devoted to doing so for the past 11 years, is no longer allowed to use that name because of a cease and desist order fired off by the ZFT legal department.

“There are more layers that continue to unfold around the conflict within the family. The ZFT has recently set their sites on trademarking the surname Zappa which will create a host of other issues that I will have to oppose.”

Copyright is one thing; messing with a man’s right to perform under own surname is just mean

Although Ahmet Zappa and his attorney, Dax Fausto Alvarez, could stop the late Gail Zappa’s tyranny over her children, they seem to be moving full steam ahead into a copyright war with Dweezil. Perhaps Frank saw it coming when he said,

“People make a lot of fuss about my kids having such supposedly strange names. But the fact is that no matter what first names I might have given them, it is the last name that is going to get them in trouble.”

[Featured Image by Vasja Komen/ThinkStock/Getty Images]