Weird Al Denied Permission To Parody Lady Gaga… Releases New Song For Free Anyway [Updated]

from the fair-use-doesn't-need-permission dept

Updated this story to make it clear that it was Lady Gaga’s manager who apparently failed to forward the song to Lady Gaga for permission.

A few weeks ago, in discussing the takedown on Dan Bull’s “Death of ACTA” song, some of the discussion in the comments turned to parody in music and whether or not Weird Al has to get permission for his parody songs. What was noted is that he does ask for permission, but almost certainly doesn’t need it. He appears to have now put that to the test somewhat. A bunch of folks are submitting the news that Lady Gaga’s manager snubbed a permission request from Weird Al, but since she had asked to first hear the song before giving her permission, he already had it done and released the song anyway… for free, on the basis that he was protected by fair use. As a side note, the report (from his agent) notes that this is only the second time he’s been refused, with the other time being (you guessed it) from Prince:

Justin wrote to me last night: “You’re going to love this. Lady Gaga denied Weird Al the right to release his parody of BORN THIS WAY, only the second time in his career that he’s been denied [ed: the other refusal came from Prince]. But he recorded the track at her request as a part of the approval process… the first time any artists has made that request. She summarily passed without comment. So instead of selling a couple hundred thousand or a million copies… he gave PERFORM THIS WAY away for free to his 2 million followers on Twitter.”

Of course, it’s nice to see him stand up for his fair use rights. The post script to the story is that after this got so much attention, Lady Gaga’s manager finally caved and got Lady Gaga to grant permission. But it’s really unfortunate that we still live in “permission culture” where people feel the need to ask permission to create culture.

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Comments on “Weird Al Denied Permission To Parody Lady Gaga… Releases New Song For Free Anyway [Updated]”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“But it’s really unfortunate that we still live in “permission culture” where people feel the need to ask permission to create culture.”

Really? He asked permission to do it and was told no, then he released it anyway. Why ask?

We don’t live in a permission culture” if when told no, we go ahead and do it anyway.

I put up a fence, I told my neighbor I was putting up a fence to be nice, if they said no, I would have still put up the fence. I wasn’t asking permission, I was informing to be nice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We don’t live in a permission culture” if when told no, we go ahead and do it anyway.

*Precisely* what I was going to say. And once again I’ll add that OBVIOUSLY you don’t need permission to create culture, you need permission to sell culture built of derivative works.

It’s right in the story, Weird Al made created the song without permission. Distribution/selling does not equal the creative process. No matter how hard one would like to shill for the content aggregators, you can’t change the fact that ‘censorship’ of this nature can only come after the creative process.

And if you’re going to claim that perhaps fear of C&D letters is a disincentive for creativity, then by the same token you are claiming that remuneration is incentive for creativity. You can’t have it both ways.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is no legal difference between him putting it on his album or releasing it for free, it’s covered as parody either way. It’s just Al’s personal policy not to.

Also, your corelation between fear of punishment and “remuneration” needs further explanation, because it makes no sense at all as is. Respect for the law and the quest for personal wealth don’t automagically have some direct correlation that everyone is supposed to recognize.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No one anywhere has ever claimed that monetary remuneration is not and can not be an incentive for creation. The question is if monetary remuneration is necessary for creation. The question is it remuneration the only incentive for creation. Another question is whether copyright laws as they currently exist help or hinder creation. A point made is that you don’t need copyright laws as they currently exist (and possibly not at all) in order to be remunerated for creation.

Nice try with the straw man argument though.

Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Likely he asked permission to prevent any issues with being sued (some dont care about parody). Since he was told no he released it free for publicity for his new album and to share his work. It sounds like a moot point now. Basically if sued over a song he released free that combined with parody defense would have ended the lawsuit.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Al Yankovic asks for permission not because he has to, but because none of his parodies are in any way mean spirited. He has to ask permission because he wants to make sure that nobody gets the impression that he’s trying to insult the artist that he’s parodying.

This is extremely important for him, because a) he’s a nice guy, and b) this is a vital part of his brand. But crucially, the last word on whether or not it ends up on an album is the artist, not the label.

Before the Internet, if he didn’t get permission from an artist, he only used the parody in live shows. Now, of course, he can use youtube.

frosty840 says:

Re: Re:

Actually, as was noted a few hours after this story broke, last night, this story actually has nothing to do with Lady Gaga, but with her manager, who is an asshat, and didn’t even tell her about Al calling.


Personally, I think the whole thing screams publicity stunt, but hey, what do I know?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think the lady living in an egg for three days would even bother with this type of “publicity stunt.”

Between the meat dress and performing covered in “blood” I doubt Lady Gaga would agree to a “fake snubbing.” If she wanted more publicity on this she would probably just start showing up at interviews pretending to be a creepy transsexual version of Weird Al or leave a real actual horse head on his front porch with a note.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That's Not True

Well… Coolio did, but his Agent allowed Weird Al, so, it is kind of an odd situation when asking if he got refused or not. Although considering the two times the Artists were OK and the producers were NOT, I would say Coolio does belong in the group snubbed.

If I remember, a similar thing happened with “You’re Pitiful” in which the record label denied Al, but Blunt gave the OK.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That's Not True

There is a Billy Joel parody, It’s Still Billy Joel to Me, that wasn’t released on a Weird Al album reportedly because Billy Joel didn’t like it. It turned up on a Doctor Demento Basement Tape that went to the Demento fan club members. You can hear this song on youtube-

I would expect that there are more things like that we never heard about.

Anonymous Coward says:

According to Weird Al’s blog, your postscript is wrong. According to the blog it was Gaga’s manager who said no to the song, and that when she learned of/heard the song herself, she okay’d it.

” The post script to the story is that after this got so much attention, Lady Gaga caved and granted permission.” – Mike

“Apparently the fact that she didn?t approve it was news to Lady Gaga herself!

Gaga?s manager has now admitted that he never forwarded my parody to Gaga ? she had no idea at all. Even though we assumed that Gaga herself was the one making the decision (because, well, that?s what we were TOLD), he apparently made the decision completely on his own.

He?s sorry.

And Gaga loves the song.” – Weird Al

The blog article,

Secondly, this article has nothing to do with a ‘permission culture’ as you state. We may live in such a culture, but this specific example does not show it, considering it is Weird Al himself who will not make a parody without permission. He doesn’t need to ask, as is explained in the original post about the Gaga song; it is his choice to do so, and he does.

“But it’s really unfortunate that we still live in ‘permission culture’ where people feel the need to ask permission to create culture.” – Mike

“My parodies have always fallen under what the courts call ?fair use,? and this one was no different, legally allowing me to record and release it without permission. But it has always been my personal policy to get the consent of the original artist before including my parodies on any album, so of course I will respect Gaga?s wishes.” – Weird Al

You didn’t cite your original sources, but if they are more legitimate than Weird Al’s own blog about the story, please enlighten all of us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not only Lady Gaga and Prince

I can’t believe I remember this, but Coolio didn’t give Weird Al permission to do his parody song “Amish Paradise.” There was some kind of miscommunication, where Coolio turned him down, but it was misinterpreted as giving consent. The miscommunication wasn’t discovered until after the CD was out.

Rather than sue Weird Al, Coolio just gave a couple of whiny interviews about how unhappy he was about the situation, but recognized that it was unintentional. I remember thinking that Coolio wasn’t exactly thugging it up by lamenting his inability to rectify the situation through the courts.

Will Sizemore (profile) says:

I’m still waiting for God to sue me for making that mud pie as a kid, because as we all know, mud pie is a derivative work from dirt and water.

And then, of course, whoever invented pie can sue me too.

But then, it won’t be either of them, it will be something like the Village Inn, because the first pie I ever ate was from there, and I used their pie tin to hold the mud.

An who is going to sue paper manufacturers for deriving their product from wood? The dryads?

Or, what about the fact that I get paid to write reports, using words of all things? Shouldn’t someone sue me for deriving my so-called creative works from the English Language?

Oh, but the English language is a derivative work with sources from all over, most notably the Angles and the Saxes, so should their estate managers be able to sue me?

Sue, sue, sue. That’s all anyone does to make, or preserve, wealth these days? Creation isn’t about creation anymore, its about being the first to register this ‘new’ idea so that if anyone else uses it without permission, the original registrant can make potentially a LOT more in legal awards then they’d ever have been able to generate if they’d actually done the work.

Soundy (profile) says:

The sincerest form of flattery?

Maybe more artists need to recognize Al’s work for what it really is – recognition and flattery. Kurt Cobain is claimed to have once stated, that despite the record sales and fame and money and acclaim, the thing that really told Nirvana they’d “made the big time” was when Weird Al asked to do “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

How accurate that attribution is, I can’t say, but I think it makes the point pretty well.

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