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.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Eddie Vedder Sued For Changing Lyrics On A Song”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Craig R (profile) says:

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.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

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.

Robert Levine says:

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.

Geof (user link) says:

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.

Eponymous Coward says:

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).

iamtheky (profile) says:

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?

pr (profile) says:

"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

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...