Last week I talked about how the studios like to ignore Fair Use despite it being something that you and I legally have on our side. I also spoke of how youtube was completely in the pockets of the studios. Well now we look at a few examples (and there are many, many more) of how the studios and the artists like to use that Fair Use thing they hate so much, against you… you know when it suits their needs.
A few years ago a comedian named Jonathan Coulton made what he termed “A Very White” version of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hit “Baby Got Back“. Coulton made it all folksy and slow and indeed, whitened it up considerably. It was something he did for a laugh and he moved on to other things. Then all of a sudden he sees a great spike of interest in his version of this song. What caused this? The Fox produced TV series Glee, it turned out, had not only used Coulton’s song in it’s entirety but also had done so without compensation or credit to Coulton. Now, you might be saying “this is bullshit”… because it is. Keep in mind that Glee is produced by Fox Television so this is 20th Century Fox itself we are talking about, not some middle man production company here. Fox’s claim is that since Coulton’s version of “Baby Got Back” was a cover song and you can’t copyright a cover (you can copyright the particular arrangement but that is really just legalese) they didn’t have to pay him for it nor even give him a credit for it. They basically claim they used Fair Use against someone smaller than themselves. Now, in theory this is just fine, if we can use Fair Use for their material why can’t they for ours? Two reasons. They were doing this for a profit (something that you can not do under Fair Use) and they did not use the song in a statement of commentary/satire or information, all tenants required to be called Fair Use. To make it WORSE, a Glee producer even called up Coulton, told him they were using it and informed him he had no recourse against them. Do you guys see why I am so pissed off at this incident? DO YOU? They would never try this tactic (gloating included) with a big name musician like Alice Cooper or Glenn Danzig who has the resources (both legal and financial) behind them to sue the shit out of Glee and 20th Century Fox, no, they look for small artists to steal from, someone that can’t hope to win against them. I want Jonathan Coulton to sue them, even if he can’t win, I want him to sue to shine a spotlight on this practice and to publicly take down the scumfuck that did this to Coulton. There also the fact that Glee is already swell known for taking and using songs without compensation prior to this and this is a process that must stop. This is not Fair Use, this is theft on a public level and no one but me seems to care.
Coulton did the next best thing to suing Fox though, he made the issue public and then offered his version of the song (the same version THEY were selling) will all profits going to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation. Coulton’s verion is outselling the Glee version my a massive margin. Sometimes shit works out.
You have copyright also being used as a punishment when someone defies the almighty corporation. Look at the case of Warner Brothers vs John Fogerty. Fogerty was the singer and one of the songwriters for Creedence Clearwater Revival (who’s music is owned by Warner Brothers). When Fogerty left CCR he formed his own new band and since he was a lead songwriter in CCR this new band had a very similar style to that of Creedence. Warner Brothers was angry that Fogerty would dare to leave them so when The John Fogerty Band sounded a lot like Creedence (same songwriter and singer) the great frog saw an opportunity to make a point… somewhat like a scorned lover. Warner Brothers basically claimed that The John Fogerty Band sounded to much like Creedence Clearwater Revival and that Fogerty needed to stop sounding so much like Fogerty. Let that sink in for a minute. John Fogerty was sued for sounding to much like John Fogerty. Yes, this really happened… in a court of law… in the united states. Now to be fair, the judge had the same reaction as you just did, he threw out the case and laughed about it as even he saw just how spiteful of a case this was at it’s core. Warner Brothers attempted to use copyright as a tool to keep it’s other artists in line and to make an example of the one that got away. This is a practice that should be stopped… but it hasn’t.
Copyright laws are used to silence criticism of not only artistic works but of criticism of copyright laws themselves. Yeah. Just last year internet rapper Dan Bull was shut down by youtube over his criticism of rapper Lord Finesse over his criticism of rapper Mac Miller. Does that make sense? Let me elaborate. Mac Miller is a rapper who used part of Lord Finesse’s song “Hip 2 Da Game” as the base of his career starting song. Fair Use? Not so much in the normal sense of the term but in the rap world I think Fair Use gets far more obscured and fuzzier than in any other music genre due to the fact that a significant portion of rap artists use the work of previous artists as their baseline (note I said baseline and not bass line). Is it Fair Use when an up and coming rapper uses parts of an established song early in his career and then sues another up and comer when this, now established, artist gets his work used? Hypocrisy? Absolutely. Illegal? Not sure. So in this case Lord Finesse sued Mac Miller for 10 Million dollars, they eventually settled out of court, fine. Well, Dan Bull took Finesse to task over his (Finesse’s) use of an Oscar Peterson song as the basis of the very song that Finesse sued Mac Miller over sampling. Hypocrisy? Absolutely. Illegal? Not sure. Finesse stole a song and then sued when that very song was stolen from him. What then happened is what is really enraging though. Lord Finesse had a copyright claim pushed against Dan Bull for using “Hip 2 Da Game” in a video that was all about exposing the very hypocrisy within “Hip 2 Da Game” and the entire Mac Miller incident. So Lord Finesse stole “Hip 2 Da Game” and is using his copyright stick to silence those that point out that “Hip 2 Da Game” was stolen from Oscar Peterson. Does that not seem a little… I don’t know, scuzzy to you? Lord Finesse made his entire career on stealing the works of others and then gets pissed when he gets the same thing done to him. Rappers use others work all the time and then sue others when they themselves get used. See, it’s okay when the big name does it, not when then little guy does it. Finesse is a fucking puppet who has allowed the spores of fame to blind him to reality, while Dan Bull is someone that is attempting to point out and shine a light on cockroaches like Finesse (real name Robert Hall, Jr.) and gets shit on for it.
These are just 3 examples of copyright being used as a way to punish or steal, there are many others and I encourage you all to look into these cases specially to see that I did not exaggerate them in the least but that these are just a small portion of those out there. It is such an uphill battle to fight these kinds of copyright to silence criticism of copyright abuse claims that youtube tells you that if you fight a claim made against you that YOU must be prepared to go to court over this. Think someone like Finesse can afford that? Yup. Think someone like Dan Bull can afford that (leaving out the fact that he is not only right but also that he should win such a court fight)? Nope. That is what they want, that want you to be so scared of the very threat of a copyright claim that you don’t even bother fighting and I hate to say that most people do back down. Most people don’t have the principles that I do when it comes to this shit. Most people would rather stay safe and never venture into unknown or scary territory. I am not most people. I fight here, I fight HERE and I will continue to fight and I will expose the liars, the frauds and those that wish to keep you ignorant.
If you think I am being a dick here tell me to shut the fuck up a email@example.com or contact Alex Jowski to fire me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I dare you to. Come you cowards… take me to task, I DARE YOU.