Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yoko Ono Loses

A judge has ruled that the use of the John Lennon song Imagine is okay in the context of the film Expelled! Yoko Ono and the sons of John Lennon had sued to have the film distribution stopped because of what they deemed unauthorized use of the song. As the Reuters story notes, though:

But on Monday U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein found in favour of the filmmakers based on a "fair use" doctrine. "That doctrine provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright," the judge said.

I am sure that there was considerably more to the ruling but that quote seems a tad vague. I have little to no doubt that Weird Al Yankovic needs the okay of a music publisher before he skewers a song. Having said that, Yoko Ono has been living off of John Lennon's image for decades with little music output of her own, so I am not that sympathetic.


  1. Thanks to 2 Live Crew parodying "Pretty Woman" and winning in court, Mr. Yankovic does NOT need to get permission to parody songs by other artists.

    HOWEVER, he asks permission ANYWAY, and I think he also gives them/their companies a cut of the revenue (some artists even ask to contribute to the recording/video). When Yankovic parodied "Achy Breaky Song" he gave some of the revenue to a charity, per Billy Ray Cyrus' request. Yankovic does peform some songs or parts of songs in concert that he does not record, and I don't think he has gotten permission for all of those.

    There was a hold up and then reversal of approval to parody "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt (apparently a record company problem), so "You're Pitiful" was kept off of the album and Yankovic released it for FREE online. It was an incredibly stupid move by Atlantic Records, because the song was released anyway... it is just that now Atlantic didn't make a dime off of the parody!

    Parodying videos along with the song is a more cloudy legal area, and thus Yankovic did not parody Eminem's "Lose Yourself" video with a video to go along with the song parody, "Couch Potato", though he really, really wanted to.

    I have a lot of respect for Yankovic as an artist for his talent AND integrity. Can you tell?

    By the way... interesting blog. I shall bookmark.


  2. Yah, well nobody ever accused the record companies of acting in anybody's best interest but their own. Do you remember the suit brought against John Fogerty by Fantasy records because The Old Man Down the Road sounded too much like some of Fogerty's work with CCR, the rights to which Fantasy owned? What a fiasco! Thanks for the info.