Inspiration Comes In Many Forms: Did Usher Copy Homer Simpson?

from the wow-wow-wow dept

This one is a bit old, and I had meant to write about it during the holidays, but got busy with some other stuff. However, it's such an amusing story I can't resist writing it up, even if it's a bit late. Apparently, some radio DJs noticed some serious similarities between Usher and will.i.am's new song OMG... with a Homer Simpson song from a few years back. Of course, you have to hear it yourself:
Of course, to be fair, this is a really simple song, and there's at least some chance that these songs were created entirely independently. Alternatively, it wouldn't be at all surprising to find out that someone had seen this Simpson's episode and without even remembering it, that little hook got caught in their mind, and was there subconsciously later on.

Either way, the real question should be: does it really matter? I mean, it's amusing, but is the world any worse off if Usher and will.i.am did blatantly copy Homer Simpson? Even if you don't like one song (or the other), copying doesn't do anything to harm the original, and obviously the Usher song is really quite different in overall tone and intent. The two are hardly competing. When this story first came out, lots of folks were quick to slam Usher and will.i.am -- and it may seem easy to mock them for supposedly copying a cartoon character -- but music is all about inspiration and creating and building off of a variety of influences. If one of those influences happens to be Homer Simpson... is that really such a problem?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:33am

    Only if you happen to be Rupert Murdoch.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    D'Oh

    This has the same lesson as the South Park episode "The Simpsons Already did it".

    Cartman
    "Dude, the Simpsons have done everything already. Who cares?"

    Stan
    "Yeah, and they've been on the air for like, thirteen years. Of course they've done everything."

    At this point they've been around for 22 seasons. If you haven't ripped off the Simpsons, it just means they haven't ripped off you yet.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:05am

    to be fair, the Simpsons are a culture by them self's so as Chronno S. Trigger put it so well "
    At this point they've been around for 22 seasons. If you haven't ripped off the Simpsons, it just means they haven't ripped off you yet."

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    mattarse (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    So isn't the real question who gets to send the DMCA notice to youtube?

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Re:

    The 'D' stands for 'D'OH!'

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    RD, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    The only recourse

    The only recourse is to sue Usher into oblivion, obviously. I mean, he STOLE from the creators, so he should pay the price. The law is the law, right? And theft is theft, right? I mean, he didnt just share it, he SOLD this STOLEN song and made money from it! Thats what the local drive-by copyright max super-supporters who comment here support, so he should be SUED to the fullest extent of the law, lose everything, and be put in jail. This is the way the IP maximalists see it, after all.

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re:

    Of course the comparison video is fair use - since it only re-uses the material in ways that make a critical point.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    AJ, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re: The only recourse

    Agreed... They should also sue all the third parties that had their hand in this. The record companies, the agent, the guy stamping the disk, the guy driving the truck for UPS, the store the plastic disk's were sold from.. let's throw in apple as well as you know that junk is selling like hot cakes on on I-Tunes... lets make sure to get em all, LETS GET ALL THE CROOKS IN ONE WHACK!

    We then need to spend millions of dollars on crooked politicians so that we can have the laws made even more severe because obviously they aren't severe enough or this wouldn't have happened in the first place..

    Also: Just in case someone posts any small snippet of either one on you tube, lets toss go ahead and send a pre-emptive C&D......

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Kevin (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Reaction?

    Quick sue everybody.

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:39am

    I'm wondering

    if they don't both rip off some earlier work. Most comedy songs don't work that hard on creating original melody after all

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    PW (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    Shoe on the other foot

    I wonder if the events had taken place in reverse, Usher/will.i.am song first and The Simpsons copying it, if the would have been as gracious. Too frequently it feels like musicians forget about how inspiration comes from various sources and copying is the most sincere form of flattery.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:55am

    OMG ... can't breath ....

    Laughing, tears, vision going white ... I so needed that.

    It just goes to show how really pathetic label music has become.

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Mike thanks for the laugh ...

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Scot Brith, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 10:00am

    I see yellow people

    Uhh... Somebody here knows Homer Simpson is a fictional character, right? Some guy voices his words, and other somebodies write what he says. In fact, there's probably a whole two seconds in the credits for that episode dedicated to showing what non-fictional person(s) actually wrote the song. Maybe some other non-fictional person should find out who that was.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 10:07am

    Re: The only recourse

    There are exceptions to every rule. The big labels and such can't commit infringement because THEY ARE THE LAW! Where is Judge Dredd when you need him?

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    If Matt Groening had known this would happen I doubt he'd ever have created the Simpsons.
    That's the world freetards would have us living in, a world without the Simpsons, or music, or movies, or software.

    No one making anything in case someone else copies them or does something later.

    We're dooomed DOOOOOOMed

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: I see yellow people

    Homer Simpson isn't real? That's unpossible!

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 10:16am

    Re: Shoe on the other foot

    Going the other direction, it would likely be a parody. This is a serious song, pretty much entirely ripped from the Simpsons. So much for artistic integrity.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    Duplication requires very little inspiration.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    It also adds value to the original by drawing attention to it and popularizing the tune or whatever.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Shoe on the other foot

    Well, does it make sense that you can mock something serious but you can't add seriousness to something mocking?

    The integrity part comes in if you try to claim credit in general without realizing how much you borrow from society.
    "but music is all about inspiration and creating and building off of a variety of influences"

    The integrity failure is in trying to deny others access to the work.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 11:54am

    Re:

    If it weren't for the principle of the First Amendment and liberties in general.. if "freetard" fair use was not created.. the Simpson's would have been nowhere nears as funny and would have had much less success.

    I think you are attacking the Simpsons. I really do.

    Now go tell the Supreme Court that freetards have enabled garbage like the Simpsons to exist. Then mention how denying the Simpson's will promote the progress.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    Oh, so now everything that uses a wheel has required little inspiration, huh, because the creators didn't come up with every part by themselves?

    Did you come up with all of the amazing aspects of communication called English? Did you come up with the music and dance? How about the materials and design forming your clothing? How about the technological effects used in the video and music? How about the ideas expressed in the lyrics?

    What you are demonstrating is the arrogance of copyright law (and patent law) supporters. That failure of analysis leads them to anger when they suspect anyone got a whiff of what they created, but they totally fail to see how much their own work is but an amalgamation of pieces that they have experienced from others and worked their way into their thinking.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    Re:

    Collage is uncreative.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    rome (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    First Usher copied the poor goat... (Usher blatant copy) Homer's people can stand up for him but the goat got a raw deal.

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: The only recourse

    "Where is Judge Dredd when you need him?"

    Still hiding from the Stallone atrocity ("hey, I know, let's take the bad-ass Dirty Harry of the future and stick him in a prison with Rob Schneider as a sidekick!")

     

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

  27.  
    icon
    Atkray (profile), Jan 24th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmm............goat *drools*

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Abstract art is uncreative, because it's not a real thing. You're joking about the collage thing, right?

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: OMG ... can't breath ....

    I'm seeing much more elaborate mashups in the future. I'm going to go pop some popcorn!

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:17pm

    "but music is all about inspiration and creating and building off of a variety of influences."

    That's nor influence, that plain and clear plagiarism. But who would go against such rich people... Fox maybe?

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    BBT, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    For more Usher copying of joke songs:

    See Usher & R. Kelly's song "Same Girl" which copies Flight of the Conchords' "Same Girl.

    OMG USHER IS A COPYING THIEF IT IS AN EPIDEMIC

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This