Universal Music Using Copyright To Kill Off Wacky Charlie Brown / Smiths Comic Mashup

from the it-always-looks-darkest-just-before-it-gets-totally-black dept

In the past, we've written a few times about various fun online attempts to take classic comic strips and remix them into something else. Probably the most famous is Garfield Minus Garfield (which is just what it sounds like). What amazed us about that story was that, not only did Garfield author Jim Davis not freak out about it (he actually loved it), he and his publisher agreed to publish a book of those strips.

Unfortunately, other comic remixers haven't had the same sort of luck. "Real Calvin and Hobbes" (taking panels from the strip and putting them in "real photographs") was shut down by publisher Andrews McMeel Universal. And, Iconix Brand Group, owners of Peanuts Worldwide, shut down Peanutweeter, a site that took semi-random tweets and fit them to panels from classic Peanuts' strips.

This latest example also involves Peanuts, though it appears not to have been Peanuts Worldwide that brought it down this time. At issue is the blog This Charming Charlie, which has taken lyrics from songs by The Smiths, and placed them into Charlie Brown comics. It was set up by Lauren LoPrete nearly two months ago, and got a ton of attention back in August, with articles in Slate, Time and Esquire among some others. I had actually missed all of that, but came across the blog today totally by accident (literally: was researching something totally unrelated and a confused Google search sent me to the blog), where I discovered that LoPrete says it's over as of last week because she's been getting takedowns.

But here's the odd part. The takedowns aren't from the Peanuts side of things, but the Smiths. Universal Music Publishing Group is claiming that the use of the Smith's lyrics here violate their copyrights. Frankly, that's ridiculous. First of all, as you can see from a few of the examples below, the strips use just very small snippets of lyrics, and do so in totally transformative ways, in a manner that is clearly commentary on those original lyrics (as well as on Charlie Brown). If anything should be considered fair use, it's this. But, really, what does Universal Music Publishing think they're doing here? Do they honestly think these comic strips somehow hurt the copyright on those lyrics? Really? It seems like just another jerky kneejerk reaction for no reason other than copyright allows them to censor.

Thankfully, it appears that LoPrete isn't just going to fold. She's been hearing from some lawyers who are interested in representing her, and she sounds like she's going to fight this. She's currently filing counternotices and apparently is ready to fight back even more if Universal decides to try to continue to censor her.








Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 10:47am

    Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Even if you've a "fair use" argument, it's just tacky to rely on someone else's creativity for your income -- or even fun.

    And this second-hand grifting is consistent throughout Mike's notions. It's why he's so keen on Pandora and Megaupload: both those let someone else do all the work, then insert themselves to grift off the created value. -- at least Pandora pays a pittance! Megaupload never handed over a cent of its income to those who did the work.

    Anyhoo, since there's NO attribution of the lyrics -- I for one would NEVER know unless informed -- it's just simply stealing, whosit may have a "legal" argument, but not a moral claim -- putting 3rd party text into 2nd party's cartoon? THAT'S what you regard as innovation?

    Why do you force me to side time and again with heartless grifting corporations, Mike?

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 10:48am

    As it was discussed on that Holmes article when the lyrics are used in that obviously transformative and "fair use" way the band is unable to sing it or record it on approved plastic discs and end up starving to death. Universal is right!

    I'd make an "anomaly" and an "it's over 9000" joke but I'm too excited with the perspective of the voice actor starting his own rock band or something. And I'm also afraid of getting Techdirt a DMCA notice because of it and have my house raided by fully geared SWAT guys =(

     

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  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 10:57am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    I'm inclined to say you should shoot yourself in the head for such types of comments but I'll try not to do it. Oops. Still, you are an obnoxious idiot if you truly believe in what you said. You are simply saying that the small folk, the ones that are really responsible for the majority of the cultural output should be ignored simply because they are creating on top of something bigger. Yep, you are a moron.

    it's just tacky to rely on someone else's creativity for your income

    And there we are, you were thinking it. (I read just the title) You see, almost anything created relies on something that already exists at least in part. Yeah, though truth I know. So yes, Universal and "The Smiths" are plain thieves. They are freeloading on previous existing culture. What a tacky reliance on someone's else creativity for their income, no?

    It's why he's so keen on Pandora and Megaupload:

    Irrelevant. They don't compare to what is being discussed here. Take your head out of your ass for some air so you won't mix stuff that are unrelated.

    Anyhoo, since there's NO attribution of the lyrics -- I for one would NEVER know unless informed -- it's just simply stealing

    No it is not. It wouldn't hurt to have some attribution I do agree. But it could have been requested. It's rather common to simply forget to add it to the work. It does not make the work illegal or any of the stupidity coming out of you.

    Why do you force me to side time and again with heartless grifting corporations, Mike?

    Really? Go find a psychiatrist.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 10:57am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    it's just tacky to rely on someone else's creativity for your income -- or even fun.

    Says the person who parrots the maximalist line.

     

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  5.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:05am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    YOU... are building on top of every other troll that came before you. Some do it well, others like yourself... fail.
    -
    "I for one would NEVER know unless informed" - Hence the idiot in a hurry. Maybe if the idiot in a hurry took the time to listen... maybe, just maybe... he would be informed and have a new appreciation of the Peanuts and new found liking for The Smiths. Nah... that never happens in real life. Jus sayin.
    -
    "Why do you force me to side time and again with heartless grifting corporations, Mike?" How is that new office at Google HQ?

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:08am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Sorry for the double post but as I was thinking what an idiot OOTB is. I kind of felt bad for calling him an idiot... I dont mean to insult idiots by associating them with OOTB. That's just not fair... to the idiots.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re:

    You're in Brazil. Wouldn't it be AWTS or something?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:18am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    You have no idea what you're talking about, as always.

     

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  9.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    "it's just tacky to rely on someone else's creativity for your income"

    You mean like the **AA cartels, and their membership?

    Or that Disney fellow and all of those fairy tales someone else wrote and he just stole their creativity?

    Or that James Cameron fellow who painted Pocahontas blue?

     

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  10.  
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    Michael, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:34am

    literally: was researching something totally unrelated and a confused Google search sent me to the blog

    See Mike? Google is responsible for directing you to infringing content!

    Take that!

     

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  11.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Did you hear The Smiths broke up? Now they're The Smithereens.

    /rimshot

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:51am

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And donít bother concealing your thievery Ė celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ďItís not where you take things from Ė itís where you take them to.Ē

    - Jim Jarmusch

    See where your argument lacks debt?

    Besides, there is attribution courtesy of the remixer:
    http://thischarmingcharlie.tumblr.com/about

    Somehow parody would seem like an appropriate way of describing the mix, making it internationally recognized fair use. That the mixer owns a record-label herself just seems to further compound the notion (She must know how it feels having an artists lyrics used etc.).

     

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  13.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re:

    Badass Federal cops probably considering it's in the Federal sphere. SWAT is the police for which level there? Here it depends on the state. In the state level the most famous are the BOPE (Rio) and ROTA (S„o Paulo) and in the municipal level you got the GCM (Guarda Civil Metropolitana). But really, we just care about copyrights here if someone feels hurt and it's about physical media resale. Other than that the cops would look at the copyrights holders and laugh.

     

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  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 11:58am

    Re:

    I'd argue that the MAFIAA succeeding in meddling with the algorithm would be the responsible.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Obligatorylyric quote for UMG

    I am human and I need to be loved
    Just like everybody else does

     

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  16.  
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    WDS (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    I'll reply to you, rather than to OOTB.

    There is not attribution on the individual strips, but there is very much attribution on the Tumblr where they are posted, both to Schulz and to The Smiths.

     

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  17.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    "Anyhoo, since there's NO attribution of the lyrics -- I for one would NEVER know unless informed"

    Indeed, reading and using your brain are difficult for you, so you wouldn't have noticed the about page on the blog in question that states the following:

    "All images adapted from Charles Schulzís Peanuts comic series. All words adapted from Smiths lyrics written by Morrissey, Johnny Marr and The Smiths."

    Yet another ootb tirade undone by applying simple facts, easily available to anyone actually interested in the truth...

    "those let someone else do all the work, then insert themselves to grift off the created value"

    Just like Universal? Unless you can quantify how they were involved in creating the lyrics in question, of course. What creativity did they insert to exempt them from the same criticism?

    Difficulty: you can't state things like funding, marketing, distribution and so on, since all of those can be applied to other companies you attack on a regular basis and thus would make you a hypocrite.

    "Why do you force me to side time and again with heartless grifting corporations, Mike?"

    Wait, I thought Mike was the "corporatist", or at least that's what you call him in other threads. Let me guess, your opinion changes completely based on whether you can launch a moronic attack on Mike for supporting something? What a dishonest fool you are.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    Thank you for that.

     

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

  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Re:

    Great. Now we need a "Booooo!" button as well.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Feeding the troll

    17 comments and 9 of them are responses to a troll.

    Common people must you continue to feed the trolls!

     

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

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    And another reason why Morrissey sucks.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    And another reason why Morrissey sucks.

     

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

  23.  
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    Michael, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    Hmm...

    Let's see how we could illustrate this takedown.

    We could make a hapless character that just wants to do something good. Since the blog is "This Charming Charlie", there is probably some character that we can all get into our minds.
    We have this character get all ready to do something fun and exciting...like kicking a football or something.
    Then, we have another character - one a bit mean-spirited pull that opportunity away at the last minute.

     

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  24.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Sorry, AC, you have to make your own arguments. Not quote someone else's. Jim Jarmusch is sad that you stole from him.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Feeding the troll

    sometimes it is fun

     

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

  26.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Feeding the troll

    The trolls thinks it's making a point, but all it does is force everyone else to agree with and defend the article. Then the troll complains about the group mentality that it created.

    The troll does this as often and as predictably as possible, and I'm not sure why, but the troll is Techdirt's best friend.

     

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

  27.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    ...No-one's forcing you to do anything. Are you that bad OCD wise that whenever Mike posts an article, any article at all, you are simply compelled to rush to the site and spew forth a barely working sentence in opposition to what he wrote?

     

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

  28.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 1:59pm

    Re:

    I don't know which is more sad. Your joke, or the fact I actually laughed at it...

     

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

  29.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Somewhere in his head he thinks he's better than us and is doing us a favor.

     

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

  30.  
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    interested_onlooker (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    "Even if you've a "fair use" argument, it's just tacky to rely on someone else's creativity for your income -- or even fun."

    Does this include the very same Smiths who used still frames from famous 50's-60's British movies for every single one of their album covers? Because Morrissey was a fan of Diana Dors, Terrence Stamp, etc and wanted to share his love of them?

     

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  31.  
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    Abara, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Taken from the page "About" of the site linked by mike. Here is your attribution in the first two lines:

    "All images adapted from Charles Schulzís Peanuts comic series. All words adapted from Smiths lyrics written by Morrissey, Johnny Marr and The Smiths."

    Your argument is invalid.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 4:44pm

    Copywrong never gets punished.

     

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

  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 5:36pm

    out_of_the_ass just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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  34.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    I seem to remember David Bowie sang a Smiths song once. In fact, he sang a lot of other people's songs. What an uncreative wanker.

     

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  35.  
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    FactCzech, Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 7:31pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Don't 99% of the people at Universal Music Publishing "rely on someone else's creativity for their income"?

    Because, I'm just guessing here, most Universal employees aren't actually rock stars, but do marketing and human resources and accounting, and just rely on someone else's creativity for all their income.

    THOSE DIRTY FREE-RIDING THIEVES.

     

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  36.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 23rd, 2013 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Correction - it was a Morrissey cover.

     

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  37.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 24th, 2013 @ 12:45am

    Re: Feeding the troll

    "Common people"

    Stop it, he'll accuse you of infringing Pulp's lyrics now!

     

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

  38.  
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    Sheriff Fatman, Sep 24th, 2013 @ 2:49am

    Advertising

    Somehow the whole Smiths thing passed me by, even though I was surely part of an ideal demographic (13 when the first album came out, 17 when the last one did, and angsty as Hell for most of that).

    But these strips get me thinking I missed something, and make me want to go out and buy a Smiths album. Or several.

    And UMG want to take them down?

     

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  39.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 24th, 2013 @ 3:35am

    Re: Advertising

    Me too. It was never my scene either, though some songs were unavoidable, and my first reaction was "you know, I don't think I've ever listened to a whole album by The Smiths or by Morrisey". Under normal circumstances that would mean I'd load up Spotify to see what there was and give it a shot, but I'd rather not give Universal any royalties from my plays, however small, as a result of this lawsuit. Oh well, there's plenty more bands and labels out there.

     

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

  40.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 24th, 2013 @ 3:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Yeah, I found that page later.

    http://thischarmingcharlie.tumblr.com/about

    I checked to make sure but I didn't do it hard enough =/
    Thanks for the heads up.

     

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  41.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 24th, 2013 @ 5:06am

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    its 'second-handers' all the way down, nimrod...

    if you are xtian, dog almighty is the ONLY original 'author', since then, EVERYONE has been cribbing...

    if you are rational, Slimey the Pond Ooze is the ONLY original, ALL the rest of us are derivatives...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2013 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Take your head out of your ass for some air so you won't mix stuff that are unrelated.


    Ninja, you definitely sound like you are in desperate need a bj if ever anyone needed a bj, but don't look to techdirt to ease your cynicism.

     

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

  43.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 24th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Re: Advertising

    Yes, a friend sent me that site a few months ago and my first reaction was to fire up The Smiths.

    A record label that was interested in its artists instead of stopping infringement would have embraced this as a promotional opportunity. And they might have too if it didn't also involve Peanuts. That would mean licensing the comic, because the record label lawyers forbid them to ever claim fair use for anything they do. In their world, everything must be licensed, and they don't understand why the rest of the world doesn't behave the same way. It's because they deny that fair use is part of the law.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ever notice how Mike focuses on second-handers?

    Needing blowjobs? That would explain why you're here...

     

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


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