Bootleggers Beware: Rod Wave Is Coming For Your Fake Concert Merch

If you were thinking about selling unauthorized Rod Wave merch outside one of his concerts, you might want to think again.

The “Rags2Riches” rapper won a federal court order Tuesday empowering law enforcement to seize bootleg merchandise sold outside his Charlotte concert on Wednesday, regardless of who was selling it.

“The United States Marshals Service and state and local law enforcement officers may seize and impound any infringing merchandise (i.e. unauthorized goods bearing the full name Rod Wave) that is found for sale between 3:00 PM on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 and 3:00 AM on Thursday, November 16, 2023 and is within 5 miles of the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.”

Wave is the latest artist to turn to the courts to fight fake merch. Metallica‘s authorized vendor filed a similar case in October to quash bootleggers at two St. Louis shows, and SZA won a similar seizure ruling ahead of a September show at TD Garden in Boston. Post Malone, Cher, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bruno Mars, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Jimmy Buffet, Aerosmith, Dead & Co. and many others have filed similar cases, which argue that such unauthorized gear violates artists’ trademarks as well as their likeness rights.

Those cases – and the legal bills it takes to fight them — are a sign of just how valuable concert merch has become to artists. According to data from atVenu, the average concertgoer spent $8.16 on t-shirts, posters and other goods in 2022, a 46% leap from what they spent back in 2019. The average show brought in a whopping $20,778 in gross merch sales.

Restraining orders and injunctions typically require a plaintiff to identify who they’re targeting – a fundamental legal safeguard designed to allow an accused party to defend themselves. But like other judges in previous fake merch cases, Judge Kenneth D. Bell ruled the order should apply to any “John Doe” bootleggers who show up at the venue.

“It is impossible to identify potential defendants until they have already begun to infringe upon Mr. Green’s trademarks, at which point he will have suffered irreparable injuries,” the judge wrote. “The lost profits at even one venue may be significant. Counsel has stated that it is impossible to identify defendants in advance and difficult even to ascertain their identities when confronted at the venue.”

The judge included key limits in his ruling. He required Wave to post a $5000 security bond to cover any merchandise that was wrongfully seized, and said that any alleged bootleggers should be “immediately served” with the lawsuit and “given a receipt if merchandise is seized.” Such defendants can then challenge the order in court

But Judge Bell also paved the way for Wave to win a more-expansive injunction that “reaches beyond Charlotte,” banning bootleggers and allowing for seizures at “future stops on his tour.” A hearing on such an order is set for later this month, where Wave himself must be present and his lawyers will “bring representative samples of any seized merchandise.”

A spokesperson for Wave (born Rodarius Green) declined to comment when asked by Billboard on Thursday about the order and how it had been used at Wednesday’s concert.

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