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Subject: Family Guy wins copyright case in parody of "When You Wish Upon a Star"

Written By: ChuckyG on 03/17/09 at 11:53 am

I'm honestly surprised a music company doesn't know the law on fair use in parody after all the cases that have been established over the years.  Apparently there is still one that didn't.

Full Story at Yahoo

Subject: Re: Family Guy wins copyright case in parody of "When You Wish Upon a Star"

Written By: Tommy Turtle on 04/18/09 at 12:02 am

There was an entire thread a while back that discussed fair use, plagiarism, etc., starting here. The whole thread was interesting. My main thoughts were in this post.
One reply was:

What Tommy Turtle said.

Thank you, Tommy. You said everything I was thinking. Plus more. Plus better. Plus you actually said it.


Here's some irony from that thread from more than two years ago:

The TSB medley was just brought to my attention. I haven't gone through this whole thread, but my two cents are:

A reviewer may quote "passages" (not the entire work or a very substantial portion of it) from a book, movie, play, etc., with proper
credit, without infringing. It would be pretty hard to review anything otherwise lol.

I personally would be generous and consider TSB's "medley" a review, so to speak, of some works submitted in that month that he
considered worth quoting. He stated openly at the top that it was such a compilation, then specifically credited the original parody and
the author at the bottom.  This may or may not meet the artistic standards of this site in not being a "parody" per se, but that is a
content judgment for the Webmaster to make. I don't believe it constitutes willful copyright infringement.

TSB did not obtain my permission, but so long as he did not use a "substantial' portion of my work, and gave me credit, I do not feel
infringed. I am much more concerned about the indication that my parody,  "Brokenback Mountain" was recorded and played
on a radio station, presumably a commercial one. Haven't had time to run it down yet.

I take a position similar to my brief-glance reading of Spaff's opinion: Someone who reads TSB's thing might be intrigued enough by my
snippet to go read my parody, and that's a good thing. As a vaguely distant relative of mine, P. T. Barnum (of Ringling Bros. Barnum &
Bailey Circus) once said, "I don't care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!"

The irony? Well, I finally ran it down. Called the station, found out they subscribe to a nationwide comedy service, whose contact info they gave me. Emailed the producer very politely, requesting reimbursement for using my song. He sent me his lyrics and mp3 -- totally different. We both used the same OS and same title switch, but differing POVs. Mine was from the POV of the singer, lusting for the guy up on that mountain. His was from the POV of a male movie-goer, expressing disgust at the gay theme. Many times here at AIR, two or more authors have thought up the same title switch independently. I actually have one that was going to post this week, but got "bumped" to next week by other priorities, that turned out to have been done five years ago, although of course, the lyrics are very different.

Anyway, we had a polite discussion, earned mutual respect. Short story -- he ended up buying some parodies from me throughout 2008, including ones on
Scooter Libby,
Astro-nut Lisa Nowak,
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton (co-authored by TJC),
John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin (co-authored by TJC),
Larry Craig, and
John Edwards,
along with some (non-musical) comedy writing, including printing these lyrics, which aren't musical enough for a parody recording (sorry, Billy S.). And we're still in contact should I have any more that I think would fit his guidelines and needs. All because of chasing down what I *thought* was plagiarism, but wasn't. In the same thread, Spaff mentions meeting his future cohort, Robert Lund, in the same way. Strange how things work. (Nice p. s.: the radio producer agreed to let me give his "Brokeback Mountain" mp3 to the person who reported the alleged plagiarism by commenting on my song that he had heard it on the radio and wanted a copy. Happy ending for everyone!)

More irony, non-commercial:

A parody I posted here almost three years ago seemed to be climbing fairly rapidly up the "hits" ladder on my author page a few months ago. Curious, I Googled it, and found that in addition to the link to my song, there was a link to a British football club (what we in the US would call rugby or soccer, not sure which). Someone there had posted it, without attribution (no link, no author name, etc.), although he didn't claim that he wrote it; it was just posted in response to someone asking about such a song. I wrote the site a polite e-mail requesting proper credit. They posted that letter, the guys had a good laugh at the expense of their "copyright-breaking" member, I hung there for a while and met some of the guys, and that song continues to climb, and to this day is my most-often-viewed, by a long shot. No commercial use anywhere, but it's getting nice free publicity.

Anyway, the thread linked to in the beginning of this post is worthwhile reading on the issue, and yes, ChuckyG, it's hard to believe anyone in the music business doesn't understand Fair Use. IMHO, their lawyer just saw a chance to make huge fees by recommending that they sue, even though s/he knew the case was weak or non-existent. I'll bet s/he demanded to be paid hourly instead of on contingency (percent of whatever they won - zip).  :D


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