Bow-Wow-Wow-Yippie-Yo-Yippie-Yea Is Infringing, And Fair Use Won't Save It

from the dog-me dept

This one came out about a month ago, and I'd been ignoring writing about it because it was too frustrating (even though we wrote about the case earlier). But people keep submitting it, so we might as well dig in. This particular case involves Bridgeport Music, a company that claims to own a bunch of composition copyrights, including (most importantly) those of many songs by funk legend George Clinton -- though, Clinton himself claims that the guy behind Bridgeport forged signatures to get the copyrights, and Clinton himself doesn't have a problem with hip hop artists sampling his music. However, Bridgeport has filed hundreds of lawsuits over these copyrights, and while it has lost or settled a bunch of cases, it has had a few stunning and confusing victories that seem to ignore the concept of fair use in music.

This particular case involved a song by the band Public Appearance, called "D.O.G. in Me" that apparently samples a part of Clinton's track "Atomic Dog" and uses the phrase "bow wow wow yippee yo, yippee yay" near a rhythmic repetition of the word "dog." Now, for the most part, the two songs are incredibly different, and at most you could consider the latter one to be an homage to the first -- most likely creating more interest in the original song. However, a jury (with limited instructions in the matter of fair use) ruled for Bridgeport. And while we found it amusing that Universal Music suddenly is concerned about fair use and how high the penalties for copyright infringement are when they're suddenly on the other side in Bridgeport cases, we were happy to see Universal Music appeal the ruling.

Unfortunately, however, the same 6th Circuit that gave Bridgeport its earlier ridiculous win has done so again in this case, with a rather bizarre interpretation of the four factors of fair use. To be honest, I can't see how any of the four factors used in judging fair use would go against Universal or Public Appearance. It used a tiny part of the song, and even if it was an important part of the song, it hardly harms the market for the song. Furthermore, the claim that the use of the word "dog" is part of the infringement is absolutely ridiculous, not the least of which is because Bridgeport only owns the copyright on the composition, not the recording -- and the sheet music for the song doesn't even include the rhythmic use of the word "dog."

Unfortunately, this is yet another dreadful ruling that basically eliminates fair use rights when it comes to music sampling.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 4:53pm

    Fan-frakin-tastic

    More rulings like this and we won't have to worry about ACTA.

     

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  2.  
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    AdamR (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 4:55pm

    Wasn't that tag line used in a Snoop Dog?

     

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  3.  
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    AdamR (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    Well I checked cause the tag line sounded very familiar and yes it was used in the Dr. Dre's album The Chronic. The line was used by Snoop Dog in the track "F**k Wit Dre Day" lyrics.

     

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

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    What is fair use in samples anyway? Do tell Mike.

     

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

  5.  
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    zcat (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    I'm confused; I don't associate the phrase with ANY of the artists mentioned thus far;

    http://www.mp3lyrics.org/l/lil-bow-wow/bow-wow-thats-my-name/

    But I'm not exactly into rap music, so perhaps I missed something.

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:53pm

    Re:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:De_minimis

    Or at least, that's what it should be.

     

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  7.  
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    Wow, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    You can own words ?
    Amazing

     

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

  8.  
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    Christopher (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 6:38pm

    I can tell you what it's *not*.

    You can never make another "Paul's Boutique" again. Seven-second samples? Gone. You might get away with a single-second, maybe.

     

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

  9.  
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    zellamayzao, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    Re: I can tell you what it's *not*.

    Yeah I thought of that record as I was reading the article. Beastie Boys got away with a lot with that record. You'll never see anything like that again. Sublime samples a lot of their stuff on 40 oz to freedom. You can hear like 4-6 second samples of beastie boys on a few of their songs.

     

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  10.  
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    Nick, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    The phrase originates from the George Clinton song "Atomic Dog"

     

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  11.  
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    Lobo Santo's Ugly Cat, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Re: I can tell you what it's *not*.

    The funny part is that if others hadn't been so agressive in over sampling and reusing other people's music, the line might be drawn somewhere else. But plenty of "musicians" felt that taking someone else's entire performance and rapping around their chorus was somehow okay, and most of them got their peens slapped into the dirt for it.

    Effectively, greedy people force legal action, and in the process of legal action, the line is drawn, like it or not.

    Times have changed, it's time to go back and make your own music, not use someone else's performance.

     

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

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:07pm

    It is worthwhile mentioning that this view is unique to the 6th Circuit, which has taken a very literal approach towards the application of our copyright statutes.

    Perhaps someday in the future another circuit will take an opposite view, at which time the stage may be set for the Supreme Court to weigh in.

    My gut tells me that it is likely that the 6th Circuit's view would not prevail...but this is an issue for another day.

    Until then, "mashers" should stay away from the jurisdictional boundaries of the 6th Circuit. The 9th Circuit is likely a better venue.

     

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

  13.  
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    Josh (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:46pm

    Wait, so if I own a dog, is that infringing on their (possibly illegal) copyright?

     

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  14.  
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    Josh (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:48pm

    Re:

    I have a copyright on the word "Amazing". Pay up or go to jail. Stop supporting Rapeorism.

     

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

  15.  
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    Peter (profile), Dec 11th, 2009 @ 5:37am

    no "Paul's Boutique" again?

    What about Girl Talk? No one's sued Gillis yet, and they won't.

    The 6th Circuit is all wrong on this stuff, and time will show the truth of that.

     

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

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: I can tell you what it's *not*.

    Lily Allen called, she wants her mixtapes back.

     

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


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