Almost every freshman on a college campus knows a power hour can be a one-way ticket to blackout city, with a connecting stop in partyville. Many fantastic evenings begin chaying in a dorm room, pounding shotglass after shotglass of Busch Light to a thoughtful and well-conceived power hour mix. The Internet is littered with countless power hour mixes and playlists to accompany this classic, one-shot-of-beer-every-minute drinking game. Keeping the college power hour tradition in mind, singer/songwriter Ali Spagnola's artistic vision was to creat 60 original, one-minute songs about drinking, all with cleaver names like #7 "Double Fisting," #20 "Jesus Loved Power Hour," #34 "Break the Seal," #50 "My Liver Hurts," and #56 "You Won't Remember This Song." Attendees at her raucous live performances are encouraged to do a shot of beer with each song. In order to make a living, she sells CDs and DVDs on her website.
But as simple and generic of a term "power hour" may be, Spagnola's right to create an original power hour mix is under fire. Bros everywhere should be worried about the impending legal ramifications. Here's why.
Spagnola recently received a mysterious cease-and-desist letter from a man named Steve Roose, the owner of "Power Hour LLC." The letter claims her website, and her 60-minute album is a violation of his trademark for the term "Power Hour," which he has registered exclusive branding rights. Roose is the owner of PowerHourGame.com and 60shots.com, both of which are online portals for customers to purchase a power hour computer game with a clip art character called "The Beer Man." As we understand it, Roose has embarked on a legal crusade to protect his "power hour" brand by threatening to sue anyone on the Internet who's ever created a 60-minute mix of one minute songs that uses "power hour" in the title, including other websites such as PowerHourHQ.
If you've stepped on a college campus in the past 20 years, you know this whole thing is almost as ridiculous as McDonald's suing every mom-and-pop diner or chain restaurant that uses the word "hamburger" to describe a ground beef patty sandwiched between two buns. Spagnola was also baffled by allegations that she was violating a trademark. So she hired a lawyer and began raising money to launched a campaign to "Save the Power Hour" by rescinding Roose’s chokehold and trademark on the term. The campaign has had some success on social media platforms such as Reddit. We love her angsty, throw-your-middle-fingers-in-the-air-and-stick-it-to-The-Man attitude, so we got in touch with Ali to discuss the campaign and how Bros everywhere can help out.
BroBible: Why did you originally decide to write 60 one-minute songs for a power hour mix?
Ali Spagnola: Before I wrote "The Power Hour Album," I released a CD of acoustic/pop songs. I was playing those songs live and most of the venues were coffee shops filled with people quietly listening. I wanted my concerts to be more of a party. I figured the best way to do that would be to turn my concerts into interactive drinking games where everyone plays along with me. I ended up bringing in a much more enthusiastic crowd that really gets excited about the show. In between shots everyone chants "Awwwwww Shot!" together.
So your concerts are literally a power hour? How blacked out does everyone get when they come see you perform live?
Things do get a little chaotic at times. Of course, I always encourage everyone to binge responsibly! One concert was so crazy, people were jumping up on stage and I started to fear for my equipment. My electric piano has come in contact with beer more often than it would like.
There's probably over a thousand power hour mixes on the Internet. Almost every college student makes one. So why is your power hour album and website under attack? What happened?
It's not just my website that's under attack. A guy that made a power hour DVD got a trademark for the term "power hour" and he's trying to shut down everyone that's ever made one. He's gotten lots of accounts kicked off of YouTube and videos taken down from Vimeo. There are other power hour-related websites that have contacted me after seeing my Save the Power Hour campaign because they're also getting bullied by the same guy. I'm not the only one being targeted but I'm the one that's taking him to court to keep the term "power hour" for everyone.
So, legally, one's right to make a power hour mix and distribute it online is under fire?
Yep, that's right. He has the trademark for "Digital media, namely, CDs, DVDs, software featuring a timed drinking game where players take a shot of beer every minute for an hour." I need to protest this so that I can get his trademark removed. The term "power hour" is a general term that describes the game. Trademark law states "Registration of a mark that is merely descriptive should be refused." It's wrong he should have the mark but he does. So you're right, anyone's right to make a power hour mix is in jeopardy.
According to your website, you've lawyered up and are raising $15,000 to "Save the Power Hour." What's your war plan for fighting back?
The first step in fighting back is to submit a trademark opposition. I did that on May 19th. We're now in the 30-day period where the guy that has the trademark must respond to my opposition. After that, both of us have to try to prove our side. My lawyer is certain he shouldn't have the mark and there's plenty of evidence and enthusiastic people online that support my argument. I just have to prove that when most people hear "power hour" they don't think of this guy's DVD specifically.
How are you doing to prove it? With other power hour mixes? College student testimonials?
Well, I don't know exactly the process my lawyer is going through but we're collecting sources that reference power hour drinking games before 2000 when Steve Roose claims to have created his DVD. It may end up that I'll have to hire an outside third party to come in and do an unbiased survey of college students to show people don't think of Steve's DVD when they hear "power hour." I hope it doesn't come to that because it would be even more expensive than my current predicted cost.
So, let's say a power hour-loving Bro wants to support your cause and fight this injustice against power hours everywhere by donating. What do they get in return, besides the kick-ass feeling helping you fight against The Man?
Well, I'm sure fighting The Man is incentive enough, but you can get a bunch of different things from me depending on how much you donate to the campaign. You can get anything from a download of "The Power Hour Album" for $5, a copy of my DVD for $25, and all the way up to a concert for your private party with me and my backing band for $2,000.
How is the online campaign going so far?
It's going pretty well. I'm about 23% to the goal amount and people seem to be really responding to the campaign. There has been a lot of passionate commenters on Reddit. The story has been passed around Twitter and Facebook. There is a group of people in D.C. and a group in Maryland that are throwing power hour parties to raise money and donate enough for a concert from me!
To donate to Ali's campaign, go to her website.
List to Ali's original power hour songs on YouTube