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(Tech Dirt)   Wanna know how farked up US Copyright law is? With regard to "Baby Got Back", one could make a passable case that Jonathan Coulton is more likely guilty of copyright infringement than Fox and Glee are   ( techdirt.com) divider line
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4041 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 30 Jan 2013 at 7:26 PM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2013-01-30 06:58:39 PM  
3 votes:
Wow, it's like Copyright law isn't written to protect the creatives but the corporations that license the work!  How crazy is that?
2013-01-30 07:08:26 PM  
2 votes:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.
2013-01-31 01:03:29 PM  
1 vote:

4of11: Couldn't Coulton make a reasonable claim that his version is a parody, and thus needs no license at all, if it came down to it?

Nope. The key case on parody is the suit by Roy Orbison against 2 Live Crew:

Here, the District Court held, and the Court of Appeals assumed, that 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" contains parody, commenting on and criticizing the original work, what-ever it may have to say about society at large. As the District Court remarked, the words of 2 Live Crew's song copy the original's first line, but then "quickly degenerat[e] into a play on words, substituting predictable lyrics with shocking
ones . . . [that] derisively demonstrat[e] how bland and banal the Orbison song seems to them." 754 F. Supp., at 1155 (footnote omitted). Judge Nelson, dissenting below, came to the same conclusion, that the 2 Live Crew song "was clearly intended to ridicule the white-bread original" and "reminds us that sexual congress with nameless streetwalkers is not necessarily the stuff of romance and is not necessarily with-out its consequences. The singers (there are several) have the same thing on their minds as did the lonely man with the nasal voice, but here there is no hint of wine and roses."
972 F. 2d, at 1442.
We have less difficulty in finding that critical element in 2 Live Crew's song than the Court of Appeals did, although having found it we will not take the further step of evaluat-ing its quality. The threshold question when fair use is raised in defense of parody is whether a parodic character may reasonably be perceived . . While we might not assign a high rank to the parodic element here, we think it fair to say that 2 Live Crew's song reasonably could be perceived as commenting on the original or criticizing it, to some degree. 2 Live Crew juxtaposes the romantic musings of a man whose fantasy comes true, with degrading taunts, a bawdy demand for sex, and a sigh of relief from paternal responsibility. The later words can be taken as a comment on the naivete´ of the original of an earlier day, as a rejection of its sentiment that ignores the ugliness of street life and the debasement that it signifies. It is this joinder of reference and ridicule that marks off the author's choice of parody from the other types of comment and criticism that traditionally have had a claim to fair use protection as transformative works.

In other words, to be enjoy copyright protection as a parody, it has to be: (i) transformative, in that it may appropriate some of the original's content, but then has to veer off into new territory; and (ii) it has to comment in some way on the work being parodied. Coulton's version meets neither element. As to the lyrics of "Baby Got Back," he doesn't transform them in a material way; he just copies them. Nor does his version have any apparent parodic "comment" on the original, other than perhaps a way of saying "hey, you can do a different musical arrangement with this."

Weird Al's parodies certainly meet the first element, but there is an argument as to whether they are "commenting" on the song being parodied." What comment is "Like a Surgeon" making about "Like a Virgin," other than maybe "those two words rhyme." That's why he's smart to make sure he gets permission to do what he does, as he may not be able to defeat a lawsuit that might materialize.
2013-01-31 07:22:17 AM  
1 vote:

LowbrowDeluxe: I like Coulton, I even like his cover of this song, and DON'T like Glee.  And yet I absolutely, completely, and utterly, don't give a single goddamn shiat about this story that the internet seems to feel the need to dry-hump on a daily basis.

Was the headline not enough of a clue that this might not be the thread for you?
2013-01-30 08:44:46 PM  
1 vote:
I think the bottom line is Fox should just not be dicks and credit both the person that did the rearrangement and the original author.  What is stupid is that this is even a story that there are lawyers involved at all when all Fox needed to do was write a farking line in the credits and this would still be a non-issue.

I am on Coulton's side on this, mostly because Fox's argument that "well they get exposure" is BS and I don't blame Coulton for being upset, because a few years from now more people would probably, "Hey this dude is playing Glee's version of Baby Got Back."  Why?  Because Fox did not give any credit.  The dude is asking for "'Baby Got Back' arrangement by Jonathan Coulton." In the end credits.  Woe be Fox for having to pay someone minimum wage to type 6 words into the credits.

Ignoring legal reasons simple courtesy goes a long way and keeps all parties from looking like idiots.
2013-01-30 08:19:05 PM  
1 vote:

The_Sponge: Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.


Nuclear Monk: Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.

That too.

enry: I'd also say an argument could be made that Coulton did a parody since the entire tone of the song has changed due to how it was arranged and paying Harry Fox was a courtesy

Without getting into the nitty gritty of this, you would be entirely incorrect. What Coulton DOES have the rights to is his recording, if any of it was used without his permission, but neither the musical setup of the cover he did nor his minor changes to the lyrics are something he has copyright to.
2013-01-30 07:53:04 PM  
1 vote:
Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.
2013-01-30 07:51:50 PM  
1 vote:
Neither has infringed and the article shows an utter ignorance of what the law means.  The law does allow for different arrangement (think of Jose Feliciano and "Light My Fire") and it's no infringement since Coulton paid for a license.  Glee also legally paid for the rights to the song, and it's up to ASCAP to pay whoever is entitled to it.  You can record any song you like in any arrangement if you pay the licensing fees.
2013-01-30 07:44:18 PM  
1 vote:

fusillade762: I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.

Never heard of Portal?
2013-01-30 07:43:32 PM  
1 vote:
As he's noted repeatedly, he paid the compulsory license to cover the song via the Harry Fox Agency. Doing so means that he agreed (pdf) to abide by Section 115 of the Copyright Act.

the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.

Previously, we and many others had suggested that the changes that what Coulton had made could possibly be protected as unique creative works. However, he more or less gave up that claim when he used the statutory license, rather than doing a direct deal with Sir Mix A Lot, or whoever else holds the rights on the song. That also means, however, that Coulton did not live up to Section 115 and his cover, in all likelihood, violates the original copyrights, because the license he got does not cover the very different arrangement and melody he created.

Ok, let's accept that as true. But let's also accept that Glee also bought a compulsory license from Harry Fox and is also subject to Section 115 and its prohibition against chainging the character of the work.(*) As a result, both Glee and Coulton would be in identical violation of Section 115, meaning that the premise of the article ("Coulton is more guilty than Glee") incorrect.
(* They probably paid much more than Coulton, because they had to purchase synchronization rights to accompany the song with a moving image. And once the lawyers got involved in negotiating synch rights -- which are not automatic, unlike a mechanical royalty like Coulton got -- odds are pretty good they bought a whole bundle of rights from Mixx-a-Lot, including the right to make a new arrangement. But this too torpedoes the premise of the article, since Glee probably paid Mixx-a-Lot much more for their bunde of rights -- reproduction, synch, arrangement -- than Coulton did in paying for the relatively cheap mechanical reproduction license, making their situations dissimilar and the article's comparison between them facile.)
2013-01-30 07:36:58 PM  
1 vote:
But he got permission first.
2013-01-30 06:51:56 PM  
1 vote:

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.

Had his audience not been Web savvy you probably still wouldn't have, since Fox refused to credit Coulton. Also, you can download a lot of his catalog for free, even use for free in your own works (non-commercially and properly attributed), because of the Creative Commons license he uses to release songs.
2013-01-30 06:29:36 PM  
1 vote:
Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.
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