Weird Al always seeks permission from the artist, usually after having recorded the songs. In cases where he does not get it, he often releases the songs for free online anyway, and simply foregoes "commercial" release on his albums - and seems to base this on a personal decision about whether or not he wants to respect the artist's wishes and reasons. But I'm sure legal might enters into it: he's stated that he doesn't want to anger anyone, but also that he's not interested in testing any legal grey areas (and fair use is one big grey area).
What he doesn't do, to my knowledge, is seek or obtain a license from the artist, because he likely doesn't need one as someone making parodies. In fact though the term permission is frequently used, given the fact that he's made free releases after being denied it and many of these agreements appear to be somewhat informal, I think it would be more accurate to say he seeks the "blessing" of the artists.
That might sound fine in isolation. But you also have to consider the body of court rulings and successful threat letters and the like, and the impossible constraints they have placed on any sort of appropriation art or parody. Here you consider the combination of style and composition copying, even with different subject matter, to be over the line - but consider this:
And that's just a few examples from the visual arts. If we include literature, you've got books being banned for not even using the same content at all, just building on the same subject matter. If you head to music, you have an entirely new legal landscape shaped by different rulings (and believe it or not it's even more restrictive).
Then add to all this the fact that the uncertainty itself further weakens fair use and stifles creativity, because it makes creators think twice about pursuing any idea that involves any form of appropriation or copying.
Well, in this case the creator argues that their work is a sort of two-directional commentary highlighting the dissonance between the two styles - and as such is a commentary on both Seuss and Star Trek.
That said, I think you're right: it's very hard to distinguish this from Seuss v. Penguin. But that underlines how absurd the limitations of fair use and the obsession with "parody" is, and just how completely subjective that determination is. Besides, even setting aside the parody question, both this and "The Cat NOT In The Hat" should, under any reasonable interpretation of fair use, have been protected anyway - they are highly transformative, there's no reason to believe they'd have *any* impact on the market for the original, and there's hardly a "substantial" portion copied since almost nothing has been directly copied at all - just a style. Add to this that it's about as clear as mud just how far copyright coverage of a "style" goes (and extremely debatable whether such coverage should exist at all).
Sadly, that is not the attitude of many courts. Those courts are incorrect, and are putting copyright into direct conflict with freedom of speech by not broadly interpreting fair use as they should be.
*The purpose of this case isn't to determine whether the copyright on the films is valid*
Um, what? Who ever claimed that was the purpose of this case? I spend quite some time at the beginning of the post pointing out that the copyright status of the film is not in dispute.
It's odd that you think this is such an inevitable, inarguable ruling, or that you think a different ruling would someone drag the entire Wizard Of Oz movie into the public domain... Neither of those things are true.
I know. This sounds crazy. I struggle to understand how the result could be so absurd myself. To clarify even further:
The court said that what matters is not that the added lined is itself somehow infringing - what matters is that the added line "associates" the public domain image with the film. And somehow, that means the shirt is no longer simply using a public domain image, it's infringing on the film.
The line of text could be "Guy from that story about Oz, you know the one" and that would be infringing too according to this ruling.
Oh I know, but the copyright on a song does not cover people simply using the name of the song - that's absurd. But actually that's not even the issue...
Here's the REALLY crazy part: check out what the ruling says. It doesn't say the fact that the line came from the film is what matters - in fact, it explicitly says that even using a line from the original book makes this shirt infringing.
Yup, amazingly, the court said the opposite of what you're saying. And I quote:
“[products] that each juxtapose an image extracted from an item of publicity material with another image extracted from elsewhere in the publicity materials, or with a printed phrase from the book underlying the subject film, to create a new composite work” are infringing
Okay but... 21 states don't have such laws. Many more states it is unclear. Is such voter intimidation rampant in those places? And moreover, does shaming people who proudly post their ballots on twitter accomplish anything related to that problem?
Besides - I didn't call for an end to all forms of ballot secrecy, and I certainly don't think anyone should be able to find out who you voted for if you don't want them to...
Surely if such a law is on the frontlines of preventing vote buying, then we'd see much more evidence of vote buying in the 21 states where ballot selfies are legal, no? Besides, clearly the best way to provide evidence of your vote in an illegal vote-buying scheme would be to send the photo *privately* to the person paying you - so enforcing the "no photography in the polling place" law at the level of people who are posting selfies on Twitter seems entirely pointless. As for whether people should be searched for cameras before they vote -- well, I think we'd require evidence that vote buying is a huge problem before that came anywhere close to an acceptable violation of civil liberties OR a reasonable administrative delay to add to the voting process.
If you permitted people to email you, we would have explained the issue you were facing immediately, and these "experiments" (and all the barely-coherent emails you keep sending us) would have been unnecessary.
Re: history lessons, history lessons, and more history lessons
I'm well aware of such services (ironically for your comment, by the way, I'm the one who writes our weekly history-of-techdirt posts). But I cannot turn every post into a complete history lesson on 20 years of digital music, and there are some key distinctions that make me quite comfortable in calling this a "first" even if first needs an asterisk (which that word almost always does).
Those were all download services, offering DRM-encumbered audio files. Much of the digital music industry has since transitioned to a streaming-subscription model, and that world has been almost exclusively dominated by "subscribe once listen anywhere" offerings, with the idea being that you are paying for the data stream and a selling point being that you can then access that data stream from any device. In the post-Spotify world, and in the realm of digital streaming subscriptions, a one-device-only offering is as far as I know a first.
Firstly, that comment didn't "make it to the top" (though it did rack up several votes) -- it was an editor's choice, in this case my choice. Perhaps I should explain it:
It's a valid and amusing observation regardless of what you think of the supposed "regressive left", or of the relative thinness-of-skin of people at various points on the political spectrum, or of who should be president, or of various bizarre historical non-sequiturs like the KKK's political alignment a century ago...
Why? Because it is plainly obvious to anyone who is watching that Donald Trump is extremely bad at coping with and responding to criticism. Maybe that's because he has deep personal insecurities (hint: yes) or maybe it's because he is not nearly as good a rhetorician or general communicator as he thinks he is (hint: also yes) or maybe it's because he simply has poor impulse control and rarely thinks anything through before saying it (hint: hat trick!) but even if you like him it's plain as day: the man reacts woefully poorly to both valid and invalid criticism (I'm generously assuming there is such thing as the latter). And that's a terrible quality for a president.
If by "something similar" you mean a matching compilation video, assembled from a variety of clips with no context, curated as the worst-of-the-worst and then edited together along with an emotional piano soundtrack, presented with a specific ideological agenda on a channel dedicated to smearing the other side... well then -- yeah, that's a tough challenge.
People on the left do sometimes put together manipulative propaganda like that certainly, but for the most part they don't have to -- because it doesn't take nearly that much effort to tell the story of the Trump crowd's violence and bigotry.