Warner Music Takes Down Popular Star Wars Acapella Video

from the but-why? dept

Warner Music Group sure does have a way of shooting itself in the foot repeatedly these days. The company, which keeps claiming that it's not as bad as the public makes it out to be, sure is working hard to suggest otherwise. You may recall that, beyond trying to institute a music tax (which is a bad idea) and suing any innovative startup that has anything to do with music, the company is also in the middle of a dispute with YouTube over how much money Google should pay Warner Music for any uploaded video that includes any bit of Warner Music Group music. This has served to piss off some of Warner's own musicians, and now it's pissing off fans as well -- whose anger (warning: that video is not even remotely safe for work if your speakers are turned on) is getting directed right back at Warner Music.

The latest, as sent in by Rose M. Welch, is that Warner appears to have taken down a super popular video of one guy, Corey Vidal, singing all parts to an amusing 4-part a capella tribute to Star Wars, to the tune of a number of different John Williams' songs. The actual a capella song is sung by a group called Moosebutter (who is not signed to Warner Music) and Corey's video of their song was done with Moosebutter's full support. You can still see Corey's video on other sites of course:
It's worth noting that this is not Corey's first battle with Warner Music. Last year, he apparently put up a video of him dancing to a short segment from a new song from Madonna... before the song was actually released. Warner Music had the video taken down -- even though Madonna herself apparently put up her own video saying she supported such fan-made videos. Either way, Corey filed a counternotice on the takedown, and since Warner Music failed to respond, the video was put back up.

It's not at all clear if this new takedown is related to the last one, but it's extremely difficult to see how Warner Music has the slightest claim here. The song is written and performed by Moosebutter, while the video was done by Corey, and while the song does use some melodies from John Williams songs, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone familiar with copyright law (other than, of course, entertainment industry IP lawyers) who doesn't think the song is pretty clear fair use. It's transformative, not derivative. It's a parody. It doesn't harm the commercial value of the original works. Moosebutter is also confused as to why it was just Corey's video taken down, when many others use the song as well. It's as if Warner Music purposely targeted the most popular viral video with this song in it. In fact, I'd argue the only harm done to the commercial value of Warner Music was done by Warner Music itself in having this video taken down. In the meantime, I've sent a note to the folks at Warner Music to get a comment... and will add it here should they ever reply. Update: We got an official "no comment." Glad they're really a part of the "conversation."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Overcast, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    There's no place for content from 'fans' anymore.

    Just pay for the movie and go away.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Who sent it in? You mean Rose, Right?

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

  3. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    A Theory

    I have a theory.
    What if the people who search for these things are actually people who want the music to be free, and want new business models to prosper. At the same time however, they have so much hatred for these large corporations that have come to control everything, that they laid out a very long term plan. This plan was to infiltrate these large media giants and try to help point them in a bad direction. This way they point to videos like this and get it taken down, its another shot in the foot. So really, it is like somebody is purposely trying to make Warner look bad. Because that is all they seem to want to do, is look bad. (Well, for music. I would still very readily side with them on the Watchmen ordeal)

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

  4. identicon
    Lucretious, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 12:53pm

    other than the usual vague line of "protect it or lose it" what comment do you think you'll get Mike?

    Warner music has proven themselves to be one of the most clueless organization in the industry....why bother?

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

  5. icon
    Mike (profile), Jan 26th, 2009 @ 1:02pm


    Who sent it in? You mean Rose, Right?

    Yes. Fixed.

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

  6. identicon
    Chris, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Reason #65,987 why I stopped buying music 12 years ago. Seriously, I have not bought nor have I pirated any music in that time. I just stopped acquiring music. I am content with my 700+ collection of titles. The recording industry can go **** itself, which it is doing an excellent job of thus far.

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

  7. identicon
    interval, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 1:19pm


    Same here. None in years.

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

  8. identicon
    Paul G, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 2:00pm


    Ditto! Over priced 'plastic' crud is all the big labels turn out these days.

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

  9. identicon
    Jeff, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    The video is impressive to me! :) WMG are morons.

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

  10. identicon
    Daddy's got a Ferrari Payment due!, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Idiots! You must do the American thing!

    What's wrong with America's love affair of consuming cheap plastic crap?

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

  11. identicon
    WMG, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 2:34pm


    We need all of you names and unlimited access to your computers so that we can ascertain whether you have been downloading pirated music. For to support something as beligerently anti-copyright as this is to show your own guilt. I'm sure we can work it so that the patriot act comes in here somewhere to uphold our rights and take away yours!


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

  12. identicon
    interval, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Subversives

    If it wasn't for the... "consequences", I still don't understand why Big Label hasn't floated some kind of idea to simply knock down doors and do some kind of house to house search for cash which they could explain as a RICO seizure. I guess the fact that they aren't an actual government entity is some how holding them up, poor slobs.

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

  13. identicon
    kevin Andrews, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 5:40pm


    Is it an example of how de-sensitized we've all become to breaking the law( which is changing to accomadate Digital Rights since it was possible to download.Don't forget a public and televised performance of a "cover version")
    is the legal property of the writer and publisher.
    I think on one hand its so easy and perhaps even trendy to stick the finger up at the record companies with this but whether we like it or not it is illegal.
    All the majors are feeling pissed off about all this and rightly so if your the CEO trying stem the holes from a digital leeky bucket.
    Not just this guy getting booted but the wider thing that this is all part of.

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

  14. identicon
    I'm getting tired of their BS, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 6:49pm

    Re: Mmmm

    Ok - lets assume you are correct.
    1) I do not download their content.
    2) Why should I have to put up their bullshit, being accused of criminal behavior (actually it is a civil matter) being spied upon and threatened with taxes, fees etc for crap that I do not want nor have "stolen" ?

    Can you give me just one reason ?
    And please none of that "for the better good" crap because the content mafiaa is not interested in the better good.

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

  15. identicon
    Jesse, Jan 26th, 2009 @ 11:53pm

    Isn't that the tune for the indiana jones theme?

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

  16. icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 27th, 2009 @ 12:38am

    Re: Mmmm

    First of all look at fair use. It's quite possible that this performance falls well within copyright. Secondly, the people who ordered the takedown don't actually seem to be the ones who own the copyright to the original. In that case, Warner are the ones breaking the law if the DMCA was invoked as it requires on penalty of perjury for the requesting party to own the copyrights.

    You don't have to toe the corporate line if you don't work for them. Copyright is a complicated issue, but works like the one above neither harm anyone nor constitute "stealing" in any way, shape or form. It's a new work - the video being completely new and the soundtrack being used with permission from the copyright owners. The only copyright question is whether the soundtrack is sufficiently different to the works that inspired it to be considered fair use or not. Given that Fox and Sony, and not Warner, own the copyrights for most of those originals, this takedown is not justified.

    If you're going to incoherently attack people, at least get your facts right and use complete sentences, please.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Re: Mmmm

    The Song is by a Band who isn't Warner. The video is of a guy who isn't Warner. So why is Warner right to get it remved? Because' it's talking about Star Wars?

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

  18. identicon
    Se7ensamurai, Jan 27th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Re: Mmmm

    OK, I've been thinking about this all day trying to figure out WHY on earth Warner would get involved with this. At first i couldn't think of any remote reason... Star Wars, Indiana Jones,Close Encounters, etc. were not distributed by (Nor even remotely involved) Warner. But I forgot about Superman (1978).

    So, since a guy sang a cover of a song by a group who's song includes a small part of a melody that was part of a 'Love Theme' to a movie that I saw in theaters when i was 3 (written by one of the greatest composers of our time, and a national treasure)... which just happened to be released by Warner Bros... WOW!!! COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT!

    How many nights did WMG's lawyers stay up late trying to find this?

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

  19. identicon
    Kevin Andrews, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 12:31pm


    This looks like a serial case of copyright infringements from someone who may be planning a lengthy campaign of DRM anorchy.

    So perhaps All the majors are singing from the same hymn sheet on this and as its doubtful joe blogs has the lawyer backing to take this to court anyway its just sour grapes now because,Ok its only a bit here and a bit there etc etc but
    What does john Williams reckon?
    WMG probably didn't stay up at all as it was probably George Lucas...or Chewbacca

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

  20. icon
    chris (profile), Jan 29th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Re: A Theory

    we have a group that meets under the brooklyn bridge Fridays at midnight. the password is "sic semper tyrannis".

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

  21. icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Feb 24th, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Just for the record, the above Coward was not me.

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

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