Eddie Vedder Sued For Changing Lyrics On A Song

from the what's-infringing-about-that? dept

Usually when you see copyright infringement claims, it's for copying something that someone else held a copyright on, but THREsq points us to a case where Canadian songwriter, Gordon Peterson, is suing singer Eddie Vedder for supposedly changing lyrics in a version Vedder did of Peterson's song "Hard Sun." Assuming that the song was properly licensed (which is also in dispute, but that seems to be a separate issue), it's difficult to see what sort of copyright infringement claim there would then be for modifying the song. After all, the modifications wouldn't be covered by Peterson's copyright at all. But, alas, this is what you get with today's "ownership culture," where people just assume more ownership rights over something than they actually have under the law.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    icon
    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 8:31am

    Licensing

    Well, it would depend on the terms of the agreement. I can't say that I agree with it, but if the license stated that the work had to be performed "as is" then there is a good chance Vedder is going to lose this one.

     

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  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Huh...

    I wasn't aware anyone could understand what the hell Eddie Vedder was saying or singing to begin with....

    Is there an anti-mushmouth clause in the licensing contract?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Colg, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 9:44am

    aww geez

    I guess is Steve Miller ever catches me singing
    "Fly like a Beagle" I'm screwed.

    Wait wait wait has anyone told Weird Al about this?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Robert Levine, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 9:55am

    An explanation

    Although the article you link to doesn't explain it, the suit probably revolves around whether this is a derivative work. Generally speaking, performers can cover the work of other songwriters without permission, as long as they pay a license fee. To create a derivative work, however - as one would with a hip-hop song based on a sample or certain kinds of remixes - requires permission (and negotiation). I don't know where the line is between these. However, this isn't a result of "today's ownership culture," as this has been the law for quite some time.

    I could be wrong, and I have no particular view on this issue - I haven't heard the original song and I don't remember Vedder's version. But that's probably the basis for the suit.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    bobee, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 9:58am

    answer

    Way to be a dick Gordo. Eddy records your song and you screw him cause he interprets it differently? What an ass.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    CCR, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Don't go out tonight,
    It's bound to take your life.
    There's a bathroom on the right.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Robert Levine, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Weird Al

    Parodies are considered fair use under the precedent set when 2 Live Crew was sued for its parody of "Oh, Pretty Woman" (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose). So feel free to fly beaglly - legally.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Journey, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:19am

    So I come, to you,
    with broken arms...

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Geof, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Moral rights

    From the article:

    Vedder altered certain key lyrics of 'Hard Sun'... eroding the integrity of the composition.

    This is clearly a reference to moral rights. According to the Bern Convention,

    Independently of their copyright or economic rights authors should enjoy the rights of paternity and integrity to their works, and the right to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of their work that would be prejudicial to their honour or reputation."

    Peterson is Canadian, and moral rights are enshrined in Canadian copyright law. Although US has ratified the Bern Convention, it has failed to live up to its obligations by enacting protection for moral rights. I say this not because I think it should, but because it gives lie to claims that international obligations require maximalist copyright laws elsewhere. (I am not a lawyer.)

    The consensus of the Canadian fair copyright group of which I am a member appears to be that while the moral right of attribution should be protected, the right of integrity is questionable at best and may pose an unwarranted barrier to freedom of expression.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Eponymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:24am

    The underlying article makes reference to the "integrity" of the song. This suggests Peterson may be making a moral rights claim, which is permitted under Canadian law, and is consistent with Article 6bis of the Berne Convention of 1886 (revised).

    Aside from Sec. 106A of U.S. law, however, which applies to a narrow set of works of visual art, U.S. copyright law doesn't protect moral rights. This (and, of course, fair use) is one of the few areas where U.S. law is less strict than international norms. It is therefore curious that the artist would elect to proceed in a U.S. court. He may ask the court to apply Canadian law (a reach, at best).

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    NIN, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Re:

    What have I become
    My Swedish friend

     

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  12.  
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    mike allen (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:27am

    weird AL Dan Bull

    Better watch out!!!!!! Seriously since when have you needed a licence to sing a song. I dont think you do in the UK. If you do theremeny karioki places out of business.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Yakko Warner, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re:

    Parodies are fine.

    PETA, however, might take issue with you throwing beagles out of high-rise windows to see how they fly...

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    joe, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:46am

    imo, if Vedder changed the lyrics, it's now a derivative work, and no 'erosion' of integrity.

    the Uni licensing issue, well, who knows... don't know why their lawyers would drop the ball...

     

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  15.  
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    iamtheky (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 10:59am

    So what if I change a guitar part because I am not skilled enough to play it....

    Or if in covering something like "yellow ledbetter" you guess wrong at what he was mumbling about?

    What if you miss notes completely and sing off key or the version you release sucks...have you then ruined the integrity?

    Are there precedents already set in Canada for interpreting the Bern Convention?

     

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  16.  
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    Shawn (profile), Dec 31st, 2009 @ 11:16am

    of COURSE he change some lyrics.. it was written in CANADIAN. It was recorded in AMERICAN. Duh if he used the Canadian words the Americans would have been confused. Canadians are we to liberal with the letter u and they think little ham patties are bacon.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Jimmy Hendrix, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Scuse me while I kiss this guy

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Huh...

    lol.

     

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  19.  
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    Stephen, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    the most amusing part

    the ny post doesn't quote the lyrics in question, which would be the obvious thing to do so readers can compare them for themselves. but i bet they were afraid of copyright restrictions.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Re: An explanation

    TFA,

    The suit states, "Vedder altered certain key lyrics of 'Hard Sun'... eroding the integrity of the composition."

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Luci, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Licensing

    That would be a contract dispute, not copyright infringement.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Luci, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re:

    Wierd Al already did that with poodles. (See UHF)

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Luci, Dec 31st, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Moral rights

    Do the US courts bother with morality issues? There are no moral police, far as I'm aware. Your morality and mine could differ greatly!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    pr, Jan 1st, 2010 @ 8:04am

    "It would be against the law"

    I've heard directors of community theaters saying "it would be against the law ..." if they were to take the profanity/obscenity/senseless violence/you name it out of the show. As if the FBI would show up and arrest the actor on the spot if he failed to say ******* on cue. I suppose he could be incarcerated for flubbing the line as well.

    I doubt that's correct, but it's commonly believed.

    And while we're on the subject

    East bound and down
    Loaded up and trucking
    We're gonna do
    what they say can't be done

    We got it on with a goat

     

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  25.  
    icon
    Craig R (profile), Jan 1st, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Wierd Al and copyright

    Wierd Al has three defences -- the first is the use of parody, which is specifically allowed for under copyright law.

    The second is that he *asks* before doing so.

    The third is that his company also pays a licensing fee.

    One idiot pair of singers tried to claim that he never got permission for the parody of one of their "hits."

    His lawyer's answer was very short and to the point: "They cashed the check."

    So far I am aware, the only performer to actually tell Yankovitc hhat they did *not* want him doing a parody was Prince. Which request he honored.

     

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  26.  
    icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Wierd Al and copyright

    It seems like I recall that Al had asked for, and thought he had received, permission to do his parody of "Gangsta's Paradise", but after it was released Coolio refuted that he had given permission. Coolio also seemed to have no problem cashing the royalty checks, so I guess that's the final answer on permission.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ... wrapped up like a douche,
    another runner in the night...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    1sicls1 (profile), Jan 4th, 2010 @ 8:25pm

    i used to date his cuz heather fox man i still wish i was hitting that i could see him and ask him WTF

     

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