Universal Music Demands $42,000 From Danish Mayors For Gangnam Style Parody

from the ridiculous dept

Last year, we noted that one of the reasons why Psy’s Gangnam Style video and song had become so incredibly popular was Psy’s decision not to crack down on copies at all. Instead, he’s mostly celebrated the copycats and parodies, talking about how awesome they were. But, of course, once a major record label gets involved… TorrentFreak reports that Universal Music is demanding $42,000 from four mayors in Denmark who teamed up to produced a video of the four of them dancing to the song.

The mayors have said that the use is clearly parody and covered as fair use, but Universal Music argues that because they’re elected officials and there’s an election coming up, they have to pay. I don’t see how that makes a difference at all. Even more bizarre is that Universal’s calculation seems to be that they should pay four times the “normal” license of $10,500 because there’s four of them. But, as the mayors point out, they just used the song once, as it’s all four of them appearing in a single video. And, making matters even more ridiculous, is that Universal gave them until today to pay up… or they claim that it will be “a real action for infringement… so the amount will be completely different.”

Sometimes I wonder if Universal Music and the major record labels have just given up, and now are actively trying to make themselves look as ridiculous and out of touch as possible. In the meantime, the mayors have replaced the video with another one using… um… some sort of salsa music, which just comes across as somewhat creepy and weird.

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Comments on “Universal Music Demands $42,000 From Danish Mayors For Gangnam Style Parody”

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Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re:

To be fair, he signed that label deal with YG Entertainment in 2010 (he was so broke he couldn’t release his music, plus YG Entertainment’s CEO is a close personal friend). This was 2 years before Gangnam Style even existed. So to blame this as a result of a label deal isn’t exactly fair.

Also, the label he’s with officially is a part of Warner Music Korea, which is part of EMI, which was [apparently] sold to Universal Music in September 2012. In other words, given PSY’s track record for looking out for his fans who make parody videos, this sounds like it’s all on Universal Music, not PSY.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

“Isn’t this extortion?”

Yes, but it’s within the letter of the law.

Political ads should license the works they use, but the demand for money is ugly when a cease and desist would have worked just as well. Imagine if Springsteen demanded money every time a Republican used one of his songs – how would that look?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

True, but at the time I thought the best reaction from Springsteen would have been for him to loudly and publicly point out that “Born in the USA” is a harsh criticism of the US, not some kind of celebration of nationalistic pride. The politicos would have stopped using it overnight without him even asking them to.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

“Except somehow I’m still a pirate because I’m not giving them my money…?”

You’re not a pirate, but you are a thief because your action lowers their potential profit.

Any choice that lessens someone’s potential profit is the same as taking that money from that person’s pocket.

Or so I’ve been told.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Considering he’s only part of Universal after you go through a fucking game of telephone for record labels. UMG acquired EMI back in 9/2012, which controlled Warner Music Korea, which was partnered up with YG Entertainment, the label that PSY actually signed with in 2010.

Yeah, chances of him getting anything are rather low. Chances of him even knowing about the threat are even lower.

out_of_the_blue says:

Oh, boy. Anomaly of the hour.

To begin with, he ain’t all that.


Obviously, four doofs chose a self-parody to parody cause the standard is low.

2nd, any alleged “decision not to crack down on copies” has NO bearing on an anomaly: obviously Psy burst into public view without visible cause — that you’ve NO idea how to duplicate, that’s an ANOMALY — and as an amchoor he didn’t know that protesting copies would have only gotten him MORE visibility (according to Techdirt assertions), besides that he missed the income possibilities in general.

Third, I think this is FINE if Universal has some rightful claim — apparently so because they stopped. At worst from your view, this should teach those politicians the evils of vigorous copyright enforcement, right? So where’s your down side? With Universal more reviled and politicians angry at them.

By the way, here’s this from Google when I searched for the (feeble) counterpoint item above: “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh, boy. Anomaly of the hour.

  1. Count how many times on this site you’ve written that something was an anomaly
  2. Read the supplied definition below
  3. Feel like the retard we all think you are

    n. pl. a?nom?a?lies

  4. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.
  5. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify: “Both men are anomalies: they have . . . likable personalities but each has made his reputation as a heavy” (David Pauly).
Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Oh, boy. Anomaly of the hour.

Here we go again: anything and everything that shows copyright law in a negative light is an “anomaly”, it doesn’t count. Don’t bother looking at the countless cases of speech being suppressed through the DMCA, they’re anomalies, they don’t matter.

Blue, at what point does it stop being an anomaly and become an actual concern with you?

Dennis S. (profile) says:

It's not the first Gangnam Style Parody they've gone after.

I’ve submitted this here but I don’t know if Techdirt has had a chance to see it yet, but a very popular Gangnam Style parody by CaptainSparklez was taken down by Universsal. He is still working on getting that resolved but unfortunately YouTube’s processes are making things difficult.

YouTube – CaptainSparklez – 2013-05-19 – Minecraft Style News, Super Sweet T-Shirts and Stuff
The update on Minecraft Style starts at about 2:40.

Here are his earlier videos on the subject which give some background.

YouTube – CaptainSparklez – 2012-12-08 – So… What Happened To Minecraft Style?

YouTube – CaptainSparklez – 2012-12-16 – Minecraft Style Status Update And Stuff

YouTube – CaptainSparklez – 2013-01-10 – And, Minecraft Style is Down… Again

Here is a link to his original video, although it isn’t accessible at the moment.

YouTube – CaptainSparklez – 2012-10-00 – “Minecraft Style” – A Parody of PSY’s Gangnam Style (Music Video)

Here is a reupload of it on another channel.

YouTube – BlockoutServer – 2012-12-09 – Minecraft Style – A Parody of PSY’s Gangnam Style (Music Video) (Reupload)

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: It's not the first Gangnam Style Parody they've gone after.

Fake news from 2014

“Artist” Psy Released from Record Contract

The viral video “Gangnam Style” that rocketed to the top of the charts in 2012 seems to have fallen off the charts in just as spectacular fashion. ?I can?t understand it,? one fictitious record exec is quoted as saying. ?We took down all parodies and infringing uses of Gangnam Style, eliminating all dilution to the brand. We controlled every aspect of the product, but sales plummeted immediately afterward. It just doesn?t make sense.? Faced with paying for 3 more records from an overweight, undertalented and aging artist, Universal opted to release him from his contract.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s a shame they folded so quickly. i was hoping they would hold out and see what it’s like for ordinary people when faced with an accusation like this. it would have been interesting to then see the outcome after having put up a fight. as it is, as usual, the labels get to have the glory and the money cause absolutely none of it will be going to the artist this was done for in able to protect. fucking liars, the lot of them!!

special-interesting (profile) says:

Here we have a another fascinating conjunction of music licensing, political campaign with the use and spread of popular culture. (i.e. Fair Use Rights)

Music licensing is its own problem in respect to culture. Current law combined with effectively eternal in length terms (your going to die before the term lets up!) prevents the spread of culture. If it were not for the presently meager Fair Use Rights hardly anyone would even hear or ingest any new culture from media at all.

If Music distribution, Radio and TV execs/firms were kings and queens then they would surely proclaim that any other source of culture is wrong and punishable by death! Its the very normal Monopolistic way to do things in a federally granted Monopoly… Crush the opposition even if it means tearing apart and disposing of Democracy?

Political advancement using current (pop) culture is amusing especially when one realizes that politicians mostly drowned out by the materialistic culture of malicious-special-interest-groups seeking advancement of their own plans. Its probably a good thing that these politicians can/have used a song that hopefully resonates with their campaign/personal style. Its a good case for Fair Use Rights.

More interesting is what do we deem commercial use? Is the paid for advertising created for a candidate a commercial product? Would Universal Studios permit the use of Psy’s music track for a reasonable licensing fee? Or not?

If is would grant the use (for a REASONABLE licensing fee) then Future Factory and the Danish politicians are most likely liable for collecting reasonable use fees. If Universal Studios would not have likely granted use then we have a very real Cultural use and there are even more Fair Use Rights invoked although this is a very weak legal argument? (read reactionary)

In one way its cool that some Danish Mayors can use ?Gamgnam Style? in some culturally relevant way as exemplified by the popularity (Utube views at 1.6 million) of their efforts. Just to be able to pull it off in a publicly acceptable way is nice to see. However keeping in mind that this was possibly a staged sudo-viral event put on by the production company Future Factory? Hard to say.

What is important in this case is that it involves the use and spread of culture. Culture and all that is entails and encompass (which is almost everything) is entirely reserved for free public use under the terms of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association.

It is ironic that in the original Constitution the copyright law was outlined as a short termed (14-28 year) very limited exception to Public Domain Rights and Fair Use Rights. Whereas in the present day it has transmogrified into some legally lethal monster that dares to call Public Domain and Fair Use exceptions? In what indignant form of attitude about Democratic values is that?


its likely Psy will see nothing from any settlement from copyright action. Un-recoverd Artists see zip until some Hollywood Accounting Method determines some level of contractual satisfaction.

AC mentioned Bruce Springseen’s Born in the USA legal attacks about ‘misinterpretation’. In this way culture and copyright law collide. Copyright law gives an artist a lo of leeway in the use of their works and as such. Its great cultural humor that Bruce and the users of his work disagree on what the meaning is.

Were the politicians using the song in some belief that it was pro USA even if only they did not understand the lyrics? Or. Were they selling the fact that such was real life and that if you voted for them one could expect more of the same? Did they do ether of these scenarios consciously or unconsciously? A great cultural debate!

Another AC mention the “droit morale” claim of abuse which if no credit to the original authors is not given might have some traction. It might be due to sloppiness on the part of Future Factory?

Its almost always true these days that the ridiculous ‘damages’ contrived by both politicians and present (insane) copyright law are indeed extortion. So much so it gives rise to a legal black market of copyright troll extortion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That is far untrue since Denmark has a lot more exceptions than USA. However, they are vastly different from the ones in US law (ironically it includes a codified chapter for blind people. So much for US copyright organisations and their fear of copyright and the world imploding if it gets through…).

When it comes to parody it is not specifically incorporated into law, but since Denmark is part to TRIPS and INFOSOC it is implicitly protected.

It has historically had very wide use with no problems, further adding to its legacy.

This case is a question of policy vs parody. Copyrighted material used in policy has been used to sue politicians to hell in recent years. So all in all this is just another case in a series of attack on politicians use of material. The war has just begun…

special-interesting (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Have to partially agree with ‘Horse with no name’ about some confusion in between international and US copyright law. As if US copyright law is not confusing enough. But that was not the thesis.

The (short 700 word) argument took the 4 Danish Mayors use of music and threaded mostly through popular culture and applied US copyright law to reach some logical conclusion or observation not obvious to the general discussion. Which was the point.

Its amazing how many pages/paragraphs/rants are not posted as they weren’t relevant enough or to wanky. In general the TD comments are quite thoughtful and each response might easily turn into a book if posting times limits for an active article would permit.

The thesis is American Culture which is mostly a mystery/enigma/topic that eludes everyday consciousness like each breath cycled without awareness. Many others also seem to forget culture too since it is so rarely broached/brought-up/mentioned/explored almost every time it’s consequences and impacts are involved.

In a way, these essays are a way to ferret out this/some/any missing cultural puzzle piece. In this essay the personal discovery that American Culture was at one time larger than copyright law(s) and dominated every aspect of life. Whereas (200 years later) current federal and state laws (patent, copyright, public performance, etc) seem to be a damper on the spread of culture as exemplified by the last paragraphs in this essay.


?What is important in this case is that it involves the use and spread of culture. Culture and all that is entails and encompass (which is almost everything) is entirely reserved for free public use under the terms of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association.

It is ironic that in the original Constitution the copyright law was outlined as a short termed (14-28 year) very limited exception to Public Domain Rights and Fair Use Rights. Whereas in the present day it has transmogrified into some legally lethal monster that dares to call Public Domain and Fair Use exceptions? In what indignant form of attitude about Democratic values is that??

It kind of hit me on the head in the cultural awareness department. Powerful in some way.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, I doubt PSY even knows about this particular incident, considering the fact that the copyright of Gangnam Style is only owned by UMG because of its acquisition of EMI last year. EMI controls Warner Music Korea, which is partnered with the label PSY actually signed with, YG Entertainment.

In other words, he has no control over the rabid lawyers at Universal, who simply see Gangnam Style as a product for the marketplace that must be protected from dilution. Is it stupid for something like a song? Yes. Would it make sense in any other scenario? Possibly.

The kicker? PSY, the maker of UMG’s “product”, is going to end up looking bad in the eyes of his fans in the long run if these idiots at UMG keep pulling this kind of bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hi Mike

May i suggest you get in contact with the danish media called
“Politiken” They have run local stories and are known as a liberal media in Denmark (www.politiken.dk)

As it looks now the movie company who made the movie for the Mayors are looking to pay but only for 1 license instead of 4 – But it sounds like they should not be paying at all?

Maybe they would like some advice regarding Psys policies?

-A Dane following the wonders of ip…

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