After Hundreds Of 'Empire State Of Mind' Parodies… Why Does EMI Suddenly Take One Down?

from the these-copyrights-will-inspire-you dept

Nearly a year ago, the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys collaboration Empire State of Mind was released. If you haven’t heard it, you’ve been living under something of a rock:

The song went from popular to ridiculously popular after Jay-Z and Keys performed it before game two of the World Series at Yankee Stadium:
It also got a bit of a boost when Stephen Colbert took on the Jay-Z role and did a version with Keys, where he changed the lyrics to be about living in the suburbs:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Of course, that version — a parody of the original — was really just picking up on a popular trend showing up all over YouTube: people rewriting and performing Empire State of Mind with lyrics to reflect their own hometowns or other cultural groups. They were everywhere. A few months back, I remembered seeing one site list out 55 of the best such parodies (some much better than others), including all sorts of cities, big and small, as well as random other versions, such as College Humor’s amusing Galactic Empire State of Mind, starring Darth Vader.
So, it seemed a bit odd that, nearly a year after this phenomenon, yet another of these parodies, called the Newport State of Mind, about the Welsh town of Newport went viral, with over a million views, but such is life in the viral video world.

Even odder? Apparently EMI has issued a takedown notice for just that one video pulling it off YouTube. This is despite literally hundreds of Empire State of Mind parodies on YouTube. Those 55 best parodies? They’re all on YouTube (with the exception of the Darth Vader one…). Honestly, I thought this had to be a mistake, or some weird Content ID error by YouTube. Considering the vast number of these parodies that have all remained up this whole time, would EMI really issue a takedown for this one parody?

However, EMI seems to have confirmed that it’s taken down the video. According to the BBC report:

A statement from EMI said: “When a song is created based wholly on any of our writers’ works, those writers need to grant their permission.

“If that permission isn’t granted, then we ask the service in question to remove the song.”

And what about all those other parodies? And, of course, at least in the US, parody is often protected as fair use. I recognize this particular parody was done in Wales, but, still, the decision to take down this one video seems really, really odd.

Oh, and one other bit of irony? In looking up some of these parodies, I found this article, which notes that the key musical hook used by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys are sampled from a 1970s track from The Moments called Love on A Two Way Street:

So, it’s a bit amusing that EMI is complaining about others building on top of this particular work…

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Companies: emi

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Comments on “After Hundreds Of 'Empire State Of Mind' Parodies… Why Does EMI Suddenly Take One Down?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: been hiding all this time.

You’re not alone. I barely know who Jay-Z is and I’m not sure about the chick. Is she a newer artist?

Disclaimer: I don’t live under a rock, but I don’t listen to that kind of music (punk rock is where my heart is). The parody was pretty funny, but I wouldn’t listen to it more than once.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Odds are pretty good that they did pay. However, odds are also good that the beat producer made the whole song using unlicensed samples, and that the label licensed them after the fact. Sample-based hip-hop producers absolutely rely on using unauthorized sounds throughout the creative process.

That’s why a lot of early hip-hop has faced legal issues years after it was released. When albums like BIG’s Ready To Die came out, nobody had really thought much about sampling so the album made it to the shelves without anyone noticing the copyright concerns. Years later (and years after BIG’s death) that album was actually pulled from stores for awhile as the label retroactively sorted out licensing deals.

Another example is Kanye West’s All Falls Down, which uses a chorus by Syleena Johnson. Though it was originally produced with a sample, when it came time to release the album the label discovered it was actually cheaper to hire Syleena to re-record the hook than it was to license the appropriate sample (about 10 seconds) from the existing recording.

Joe says:


This is what the rest of the world see’s when they read this article.

It’s like having a youtube embed that says – to watch this video, go to But not telling you which video it is. In other words, f*in useless.

No faults to Mike on this. I know he’s been on the receiving end of it before. Still damn annoying…

Anonymous Coward says:

The one thing apparent is that, they are using ineffective tools to find infringement and are not bothering to fact check that.

How about suing them for false statements I mean they already know the tools get it wrong but don’t bother checking because there is no penalty for doing so apparently, despite the law being clear about copyfraud.

I think it is professional negligence when those people commit so many errors they are not layman, they are supposed to be trained professionals what are the excuses to get so many things wrong?

Have those professionals no obligation to check anything?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: That's Odd...

The actual creators never have anything to do with the takedowns. Often enough they are big fans of the parodies, but are powerless to stop the label/whoever owns the rights to the recordings from issuing takedowns. Such was the case with the Downfall Hitler re-captionings, which were praised by nearly everyone involved in the movie but were aggressively targeted by the studio.

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