The lawsuit says the MasterCard ad copied even the small details from the fans' documentary.
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL STAR TRIBUNE
MINNEAPOLIS -- Two ardent Minnesota Twins fans say that their 1998 documentary about a cross-country pilgrimage to view publicly funded baseball parks is the basis for one of MasterCard International's "priceless" advertising campaigns.
David Hoch and Joseph Marble have sued for copyright infringement, arguing in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis that MasterCard copied their documentary down to such details as the color of the Volkswagen van that Hoch and Marple drove on their 10-day odyssey.
Hoch, of Arden Hills, Minn., and Marble, of Hopkins, Minn., became aware of the similarities between their film and the television ads when friends asked them if the MasterCard campaign was based on their work, said attorney Ron Schutz, who is representing the two.
The advertisements were broadcast during this year's baseball season.
A spokesperson for MasterCard International said the company has not yet seen the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation.
Background: According to the suit, Hoch and Marble, both 41 and lifelong friends who worked as vendors at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, decided to make the documentary to help build support for a new stadium for the Twins.
In the fall of 1998, the two began their journey to open-air stadiums, with a video camera in an orange-and-white VW bus. The documentary, which has been shown at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., begins outside the Metrodome and follows the two to Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore and Denver.
The lawsuit says the MasterCard ads include two males, driving an orange and white VW van, who visit some of the same ballparks and put stickers of the names of the cities they visit on the outside of the van, just like Marble and Hoch did.
The advertisements also use some of the same camera angles and scenes and even includes shots of the two with a broken-down van, just as Hoch and Marble experienced in real life, the suit says. The documentary shows them paying for the repairs with a credit card.
The lawsuit also says Marble gave a copy of the documentary, titled "Twins -- Now and Forever" in 2000 to Twin Cities sports commentator Dave Mona, who also is affiliated with the public relations firm Shandwick International, now known as Weber Shandwick. Shandwick and McCann-Erickson Worldwide, which is also a defendant, are separate business units under the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc., the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit does not ask a specific dollar claim for damages, suggesting only that Marble and Hoch should be entitled to any profits generated by the advertisements.