James Earl Jones Reciting Justin Bieber Lyrics On TV... Copyright Infringement Or Not?

from the did-you-license-that-song? dept

Julian Sanchez points us to an amusing bit of TV where the great actor James Earl Jones recites some Justin Bieber lyrics while a guest on the Gayle King Show.
So here's a simple question: is this copyright infringement? Did the Gayle King Show properly license the lyrics from the copyright holder? Perhaps it did, but we've seen music publishers get pretty worked up about various websites posting lyrics online and have heard stories about books not being able to be published because they quoted snippets of lyrics without a license. In fact, given how litigious publishers have been of late, you'd have to think that King's show almost certainly had to go out and "license" the lyrics for this little snippet. Of course, none of this makes any sense. It's silly to think that you should have to buy a license just to have James Earl Jones amusingly read lyrics from Justin Bieber... but, it is the state of today's copyright law.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Parodies, which clearly this is, have long been recognized as a fair use.

     

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  2.  
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    cc (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    Fair use is just an "affirmative defense", so they can sue if they want to.

    This is part of why I think fair use is simply not enough to protect innocents from frivolous legislation, and more fair use is a "band-aid" rather than a fix to the issue of copyright.

     

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  3.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    "Fair use is stealing." - The RIAA

     

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  4.  
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    Atkray (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Reminds me of Jesse Jackson reading Dr. Suess.

     

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  5.  
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    Stephen Goldmeier, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    Obviously Fair Use

    Sure, there have been a lot of cases like the ones mentioned above, but I can't think of a single WINNING case. And being sued does not equal violating copyright.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Except when we do it. -- RIAA

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:36pm

    Well as long as we're lining up lawsuits, isn't this a pretty much direct copy of Gordon Pinsent doing the same thing a few months ago?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-2O_gdYZo

    They stole that sketch idea! ah well, in the wise words of the Simpsons, "If we don't steal ideas, where are they going to come from?"

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "And me!" - Rupert Murdoch

     

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  9.  
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    Kirk (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    He truly has gone over to the Dark Side.

     

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  10.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    What would Darth Vader say

    An alternative video of the same reading is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIChsFrdf00

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Re:

    Some people around here have been complaining about "excessive" fair use. I'd like to hear their opinion on this case.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:00pm

    Even if this were considered a performance, it would be covered by statutory license provisions so it would not be infringement.

     

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  13.  
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    Paul Renault (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Canadian Icon Gordon Pinsent reading Justing Bieber

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-2O_gdYZo

    He really is a Canadian Icon. He says so in the clip.

     

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  14.  
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    Tom Landry (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    why do I keep thinking James Earl Jones died.....

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    I was wondering the same thing, but I think this performance is derivative. Does statutory licensing cover derivative works like this one?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    whatever, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    whatever

    "it is the state of today's copyright law."
    No.
    This says less about the state of your copyright laws than it does about the people who attempt to abuse them.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:42pm

    Masnick sets up another strawman. This time it's pretending he didn't know the subject wasn't covered by performance rights licenses, satire, or fair use.

    Must be a slow news day at piracy apologist headquarters.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Re:

    I think I answered my own question: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/115.html#a_2

    A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.
    So it seems that to use the work with a compulsory license, it's necessary to keep the same melody.

    My bet here is that they had the express consent of the copyright owner for Jones' performance.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Are stupid and funny, transformative?

     

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  20.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 4:01pm

    Re:

    performance rights licenses

    He didn't keep the same melody, so it's clearly derivative, which isn't covered by performance rights licences.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/115.html#a_2

    A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.


    satire

    I don't think that word means what you think it means. Satire != parody.

    fair use

    Sadly, fair use can not keep you from getting sued, it can only help you win the suit. I think this should change, but it is what it is, for now.

    Must be a slow news day at piracy apologist headquarters.

    How does this have anything, at all, to do with piracy?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Didn't you hear? Techdirt and all of it's "fanboi" commentators are piracy apologists. Because someone on the internet said so.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 4:45pm

    It's a public performance of a musical work (the underlying lyrics). The networks all pay for PRO licenses, and thus it's non-infringing.

    There is no requirement to keep it with the same melody, and the compulsory license is for a mechanical license (reproduction and distribution) which isn't applicable here.

     

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  23.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Obviously Fair Use

    And being sued does not equal violating copyright.
    You'd think not and I'm sure if it came to it Mr. Jones and the show have the cash to make that stick.
    On the other hand if I were to read out the same lyrics in an "amusing" manner and post it on u-tube I'm sure you'd soon find out it was "violating copyright" to the tune of whatever I could manage to settle for rather than pay enormous legal fees I can't afford in an effort to prove I'm "innocent" (of no crime).

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 5:21pm

    Re:

    This time it's pretending he didn't know the subject wasn't covered by performance rights licenses, satire, or fair use.
    Must be a slow news day at piracy apologist headquarters.
    On the other hand that I can see at least 1/2 a dozen posts suggesting why this was covered by copyright suggests otherwise. The point of the article was not to suggest that it was in violation of copyright but to point out that it's faintly ludicrious that you should even have to consider copyright for something like this. The fact that several people immediately jump in to say it's covered in different ways makes it an interesting argument. Either way I'm pretty sure you don't really think it means what you say it does - at least I'd hope not.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Dear god, the stupidity...

    No melody was involved there in JEJ's recitation.

    Parody is generally an original work used to mock.

    Knowing what is fair use can prevent you from being sued; if a person is concerned about whether or not they're infringing, a nice reading of title 17 will help guide the way.

    How does this have anything, at all, to do with piracy?

    It's more Masnick FUD about copyright. It's from Techdirt, one of the biggest piracy apologist sites on the web.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2011 @ 6:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You got it right.

    Mike picks a situation that is not an issue for anyone, and tries to paint it as something.

    Mike, Beiber's song writers don't care, they get paid anyway.

    It must be a really bad week at Techdirt if it is only Monday and already you are putting out crap like this.

     

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  27.  
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    Miff (profile), Feb 21st, 2011 @ 8:18pm

    Well, I'm never buying another Justin Bieber CD or MP3 again, now that I can get James Earl Jones reading the lyrics without melody for free because it's pretty much the same thing as the original artist's performances.

    (Before someone says it, I wouldn't buy Bieber's music anyway because I don't think he sounds any good.)

     

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  28.  
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    martyburns (profile), Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 4:38am

    Re: Obviously Fair Use

    Having to pay for a lawyer and waste your own time when you did nothing wrong is rubbish though.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Michael, Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 5:18am

    James Earl Jones

    I believe there is a James Earl Jones clause in the current US copyright law stating that it is ok for him to recite anything he wants.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 6:48am

    Re: James Earl Jones

    I believe there is a James Earl Jones clause in the current US copyright law stating that it is ok for him to recite anything he wants.
    Now there's an idea.... hmm you could have a "Commission for the Registration Of Cool Key-Speakers, Homeland Interrogation Tribunal" (CROCKSHIT) and anyone ratified with a cool voice gets to cover anything they want without fear of infringement - a simple and hardly out of place addition to the current "fair use" provisions :-)

     

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  31.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 22nd, 2011 @ 8:15am

    Re:

    Actually, one of the qualifiers on the parody protection is that the parody cannot usually get away with replicating significant portions of the original. James Earl Jones reading lyrics designed to sound like Justin Bieber would be protected parody - this might very well not.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    wvhillbilly, Feb 25th, 2011 @ 7:08pm

    Re: Re:

    I wonder... How long before publishers, songwriters and the like are going to start copyrighting individual words and sue anyone who dares use even one of them? :-O

     

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  33.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 12:49am

    I wonder... How long before publishers, songwriters and the like are going to start copyrighting individual words and sue anyone who dares use even one of them? :-O
    Didn't FaceBook manage to trademark "Face" and "Book" used in conjuction with anything else? Think you may be a bit late......

     

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  34.  
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    Jonathan, Mar 6th, 2011 @ 4:34am

    Oh, how ironic

    How ironic that the video is blocked from viewing in my country "on copyright grounds"...

     

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