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Subject: Ten years ago today

Written By: John Jenkins on 03/07/05 at 8:41 am

Ten years ago today (3/7/94), the Supreme Court issued a decision on a song parody case that helps protect our freedom to write parodies of songs without getting permission from the authors of the original songs.  In the case of Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music,

http://www.answers.com/topic/campbell-v-acuff-rose-music

the Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and ruled that the rap music group 2 Live Crew, of which Luther Campbell was a member, did not need to obtain permission from Acuff-Rose to write and release a parody of Roy Orbison's rock ballad, "Oh, Pretty Woman."  Acuff-Rose owned the copyright to "Pretty Woman," and had refused to license it to 2 Live Crew; and after the parody sold a quarter of a million copies, Acuff-Rose sued 2 Live Crew for copyright infringement.

The 2 Live Crew song parody probably was inferior to most of the work on Amiright, but this ruling helps protect our freedom to write song parodies.


Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: ChuckyG on 03/07/05 at 12:53 pm


Ten years ago today (3/7/94), the Supreme Court issued a decision on a song parody case that helps protect our freedom to write parodies of songs without getting permission from the authors of the original songs.  In the case of Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music,


eleven... but that's just being picky


The 2 Live Crew song parody probably was inferior to most of the work on Amiright, but this ruling helps protect our freedom to write song parodies.


Agreed on both counts.  However the majority of the work on amiright is strictly lyrical, which is protected by the Mad Magazine Supreme Court case in the 1950s.

http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,54309-2,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1

Judge's brief:
http://www.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/law/library/cases/case_berlin_ec.html

...we doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: John Jenkins on 03/07/05 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for clarifying, Chucky!

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: marthadtox3 on 03/07/05 at 7:08 pm

West Reporter Image (PDF)  FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY
219 F.Supp. 911, 138 U.S.P.Q. 298


United States District Court S.D. New York.
Irving BERLIN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
E.C. PUBLICATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants.
June 27, 1963.

Action for infringement of copyrights to certain popular songs. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment and defendants cross-moved for the same relief. The District Court, Metzner, J., held that defendants were not guilty of infringement by printing lyrics which had the same meter as plaintiffs' lyrics, where defendants' lyrics were original and completely dissimilar from those of plaintiffs' lyrics, and fact that defendants directed that their lyrics be sung to plaintiffs' music, but did not print the music, did not constitute an infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights.
Defendants' motion for summary judgment granted as to all claims with two exceptions to which motion denied, plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment denied.


West Headnotes

KeyCite Notes

99 Copyrights and Intellectual Property
  99I Copyrights
    99I(J) Infringement
      99I(J)1 What Constitutes Infringement
        99k53 Acts Constituting Infringement
          99k53(1) k. In General. Most Cited Cases
            (Formerly 99k53)

"Infringement" occurs when an accused work is a colorable copy or paraphrase of the copyrighted work, but the copying must be visible by the ordinary observer and must be of a substantial portion of the protected work.

KeyCite Notes

99 Copyrights and Intellectual Property
  99I Copyrights
    99I(J) Infringement
      99I(J)1 What Constitutes Infringement
        99k53 Acts Constituting Infringement
          99k53(1) k. In General. Most Cited Cases
            (Formerly 99k53)

A parody of a copyrighted work is an infringement of the copyright.

KeyCite Notes

99 Copyrights and Intellectual Property
  99I Copyrights
    99I(J) Infringement
      99I(J)1 What Constitutes Infringement
        99k66 k. Musical Works. Most Cited Cases

Defendants were not guilty of infringement of copyrights to plaintiffs' popular songs on theory of parody by printing lyrics which had the same meter as plaintiffs' lyrics, where defendants' lyrics were original and completely dissimilar from those of plaintiffs' lyrics, and fact that defendants directed that their lyrics be sung to plaintiffs' music, but did not print the music, did not constitute an infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights. 17 U.S.C.A. § 1(a, b, e).

KeyCite Notes

99 Copyrights and Intellectual Property
  99I Copyrights
    99I(J) Infringement
      99I(J)2 Remedies
        99k72 Actions for Infringement
          99k89 Judgment
            99k89(2) k. Summary Judgment. Most Cited Cases
              (Formerly 99k89)

Affidavits and pleadings presented a question of fact as to whether certain lyrics published by defendants, with directions that such lyrics could be sung to plaintiffs' copyrighted songs, constituted an infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights, precluding summary judgment. Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. rule 56, 28 U.S.C.A.
*912 Julian T. Abeles, New York City, for plaintiffs; Julian T. Abeles and John S. Clark, New York City, of counsel.
Scheiman, Albert & MacLean, New York City, for defendants; Martin J. Scheiman and Jack N. Albert, New York City, of counsel.


METZNER, District Judge.
This is an action for copyrights infringement in which the plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment and the defendants have cross-moved for the same relief, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Twenty-five separate claims are set forth in the complaint.
Plaintiffs are the owners of copyrights to numerous popular songs. Defendants are the publishers and its employees of a satirical humor magazine called 'Mad'. In one of the issues of the magazine there appeared as a 'special bonus', 'a collection of parody lyrics to 57 old standards (songs) which reflect the idiotic world we live in today.' This collection was entitled 'Sing Along with Mad', and contained fifty-seven lyrics, divided into categories such as business, sports, education, doctors and medicine, etc. After the title of each lyric, there appeared a statement indicating the aspect of modern life that the lyric was intended to satirize. Next there appeared either the words 'Sung to the tune of: -------' or 'To the tune of: -------', and inserted was the title of one of the old standard songs. Plaintiffs are the owners of copyrights to twenty-five of the fifty-seven songs. However, no music was provided in the songbook. It has been stipulated that the 'Mad' lyrics have the same meter as plaintiffs' lyrics, and can be sung to the music of plaintiffs' songs. The subject matter of defendants' lyrics, however, is completely different from that of plaintiffs'. For example, to the tune of 'I've Got You Under My Skin', defendants have written a lyric about fraternity hazing entitled 'I Swat You Hard on the Skin.' To the tune of 'A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody', the defendants have written 'Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady'. To 'The Last Time I Saw Paris', defendants write of the rewards earned by a baseball player who sponsors razor blades and beer in 'The Last Time I Saw Maris'.
It has been further stipulated that plaintiffs 'are the proprietors of, or are possessed of all rights under,' valid and subsisting copyrights in the songs which are the subject matter of the action, and that plaintiffs never gave any authorization, permission, consent or license to any of the defendants for the making, publishing or distribution of the lyrics in the 'Mad' songbook.
  Plaintiffs contend that defendants' lyrics are 'a counterpart' of the lyrics of plaintiffs' musical compositions. Infringement occurs when the accused work is a colorable copy or paraphrase of the copyrighted work. The copying must be visible by the ordinary observer, and must be of a substantial portion of the protected work. Wihtol v. Wells, 231 F.2d 550 (7th Cir. 1956); Ansehl v. Puritan Pharmaceutical Co., 61 F.2d 131 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 287 U.S. 666, 53 S.Ct. 224, 77 L.Ed. 374 (1932); Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Acadia Co., 173 F.Supp. 292, 301 (S.D.N.Y.1959), aff'd, 274 F.2d 487 (2d Cir. 1960). In Harold Lloyd Corp. v. Witwer, 65 F.2d 1 (9th Cir.), appeal dismissed per stipulation, 296 U.S. 669, 54 S.Ct. 94, 78 L.Ed. 1507 (1933), the court quoted from Justice Story that the true test of piracy is *913 whether defendant used plaintiff's plan as a model, with colorable alterations, or whether defendant's item is a product of his own labor, that is, whether defendant's book is 'a servile or evasive imitation of the plaintiff's work, or a bona fide original compilation from other common or independent sources.' 65 F.2d at 17.
It is obvious that defendants' lyrics have little in common with plaintiffs' but meter and a few words, except in two instances which will be discussed below. Defendants have created original, ingenious lyrics on subjects completely dissimilar from those of plaintiffs' songs.
  Much has been made by both plaintiffs and defendants of the parody cases. It is clear that a parody of a copyrighted work is an infringement of the copyright. Benny v. Loew's Inc., 239 F.2d 532 (9th Cir. 1956), aff'd, *914 356 U.S. 43, 78 S.Ct. 667, 2 L.Ed. 583 (1958); Hill v. Whalen & Martell, 220 Fed. 359 (S.D.N.Y.1914). A parody is 'A writing in which the language and style of an author, or poem, or other work, is closely imitated or mimicked.' Webster's New International Dictionary (2d ed. 1960). Defendants have not parodied plaintiffs' lyrics. Rather, they have satirized, in original words and thought, several aspects of modern life.
The case relied on most heavily by plaintiffs indicates that the parody rule is inapplicable to the instant case. In Leo Feist, Inc. v. Song Parodies, Inc., 146 F.2d 400 (2d Cir. 1944), defendants published song lyric magazines (not a humor magazine) entitled 'Popular Parody Hit Songs' and 'Hit Parade Parody Songs'. At the time, plaintiffs' songs were at the height of their popularity. Defendants included in their magazine certain lyrics on the same subject matter as plaintiffs', which paraphrased plaintiffs' lyrics. The district court held that this constituted clear infringement, finding that defendants' lyrics were
'* * * a colorable alteration and an evasive imitation of the lyrics of said songs, which ordinary observation would cause to be recognizable as having been taken from the lyrics of said songs.' Record on Appeal, p. 134.
The court further found
'that defendants use of such lyrics is not a fair use, but an attempt to evade plaintiffs' copyrights, with the intent to use such lyrics for the same purpose as plaintiff * * * in meeting the same demand on the same market in the course and conduct of defendants' businesses for profit, thereby impairing the value and prejudicing the sale of said songs.' Record on Appeal, p. 135.
It is significant that plaintiffs in the Feist case, supra, had granted licenses to certain publishers of song lyric magazines. Thus, defendants were palming off their lyrics as plaintiffs' and capturing from plaintiffs' licensees some of the natural market for lyrics of plaintiffs' songs. There can be no valid contention in this case that defendants compete with plaintiffs or their licensees or that they are palming off their lyrics as plaintiffs'.
Plaintiffs further contend that defendants have infringed the copyright in their music by stating that the 'Mad' lyrics can be sung to the tune of plaintiffs' compositions. Plaintiffs argue that this direction 'has the same force and effect, as if the music of plaintiffs' respective compositions had been actually printed with defendants' parody lyrics thereto.' Thus, they claim that there would be an infringement, even though the lyrics were completely dissimilar. They cite nothing in support of this proposition. It is difficult to see how music can be copied when it is not reproduced. Furthermore, if the reader is familiar with the music, it can only be the result of plaintiff's efforts. Defendants are not the source of this knowledge.
Section 1 of 17 U.S.C. enumerates the exclusive rights granted to copyright holders. Insofar as applicable to songs such as plaintiffs', these rights are: 'To print, reprint, publish, copy, and vend the copyrighted work' (section 1(a)); 'to arrange or adapt (the work) if it be a musical work' (section 1(b)); 'To perform the copyrighted work publicly for profit if it be a musical composition' (section 1(e)). Defendants have not infringed any of these rights by directing that their lyrics be sung to plaintiffs' music.
Thus, summary judgment must be granted for the defendants on all claims except the second and seventh.
  The second claim refers to the song 'Always'. Defendants also entitle their lyric 'Always' and caption it 'A Psychiatrist Prescribes Treatment for a Patient'. I find that there is a question of fact to be determined as to this claim. Plaintiffs' lyric revolves around the word 'always' in such a way that it constitutes the theme of the song. The word 'always' also appears to be an integral *915 part of the theme of defendants' lyric. Summary judgment on the seventh claim cannot be granted for a similar reason. This claim refers to the song 'There's No Business Like Show Business.' Defendants use substantially the same title for their lyric and both lyrics revolve around the word 'business'.
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted as to all claims except the second and seventh, as to which the motion is denied. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is denied.
So ordered.


FN1. Two examples for the following-- the lyrics on the left hand side being the original lyrics, the lyrics on the right hand side being the defendants' parodies:


The last time I saw Paris


Her heart was warm and gay,


I heard the laughter of her heart


In ev'ry street cafe.


The last time I saw Paris,


Her trees were dressed for spring,


And lovers walked beneath those trees,


And birds found songs to sing.


I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years;


The chorus of their squeaky horns


was music to my ears.


The last time I saw Paris


Her heart was warm and gay.


No matter how they change her


I'll remember her that way.


Blue Skies


smiling at me


Nothing but Blue Skies
do I see,


Bluebirds


singing a song


Nothing but Bluebirds


all day long,


Never saw the sun


shining so bright,


Never saw things


going so right,


Noticing the days


hurrying by,


When you're in love


my. how they fly,


Blue days


all of them gone


Nothing but blue skies


from now on.


The first time I saw Maris


He'd signed up with the A's.


He slugged the ball but never found


How big league baseball pays.
The next time I saw Maris


A Yankee he'd become.


And now endorsements earn for him


A most substantial sum.


He signed a contract with Gillette


To plug their razor blades.


And when he found he cut himself,


He went and plugged Band-Aids.


The last time I saw Maris


He plugged six brands of beer.


The Democrats should pay him


To plug the New Frontier.


Blue Cross


Had me agree


To a new Blue Cross


Policy.


Blue Cross


Said I would be


Happy that Blue Cross


Covered me.


Then I took a fall,
Leg in a splint;


They said that I


Should read the fine print.


When a very high


Fever I ran,


They told me I


Took out the wrong plan.


That's Blue Cross.


There seems to be


Plenty for Blue Cross.


None for me.

D.C.N.Y. 1963.
Berlin v. E. C. Publications, Inc.,
219 F.Supp. 911, 138 U.S.P.Q. 298
END OF DOCUMENT

West Reporter Image (PDF

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: Luke Brattoni on 03/07/05 at 7:22 pm

Gaaaaah, a noteable date for us all but I conked out at the second-last paragraph and just read the song parody.

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: radiopeople on 03/07/05 at 9:46 pm

I'm not sure why any songwriter would object to a parody being made anyway. If the parody gets airplay, the original composer gets royalties from ASCAP/BMI anyway.

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: John Jenkins on 03/07/05 at 11:00 pm


To 'The Last Time I Saw Paris', defendants write of the rewards earned by a baseball player who sponsors razor blades and beer in 'The Last Time I Saw Maris'.


Thanks for providing the details, Martha.  I liked the Roger Maris and Blue Cross parodies.  Does Mad Magazine still do song parodies?

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: Spaff.com on 03/07/05 at 11:20 pm

Thanks for posting this topic, Johnkins, and thanks to the rest of you for joining in. Before you go to bed tonight, everyone please say the Parodists' Prayer:

God is great
God is true
God bless Mad Magazine
And 2 Live Crew

Amen.

xoxox
Spaff

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: Billy Florio on 03/07/05 at 11:50 pm


Thanks for providing the details, Martha.  I liked the Roger Maris and Blue Cross parodies.  Does Mad Magazine still do song parodies?


They did...but I havent really read Mad recently as much as I used to..theyve really gone downhill in writting...but I think they still do parodies...

Subject: Re: Ten years ago today

Written By: Luke Brattoni on 03/08/05 at 12:10 am

The Australian writers are absolutely sheeshhouse. I ONLY read Mad for Desmond Devlin, Mike Snider and the Cheney stuff.
Oh, and Hermann Mejia is an artistic genius.

The main problem with MAD is that they DO recycle the same material. Again and again and again. It's almost $6 for only twelve pages of original stuff, the rest are old Dave Berg and Al Jaffee works. And whenever a sequel comes out for a movie, they'll just reshow the original parody and THEN  the parody of the sequel.

I was going to do 'Alfred E Neuman Fan' to Eminem's 'Superman' but not now. Their Star-Wars and LOTR Movie/Musicals from the 80s or whenever are brilliant but I haven't seen any particularly outstanding song parodies this side of the millenium.

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