In April 2011, comedic musician “Weird Al” Yankovic sought Lady Gaga’s permission to release his song “Perform This Way,” a spoof on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” that parodied the artist herself, rather than the original work. But did he even need Gaga’s permission to borrow from her hit song? Courts have only recently begun to consider whether to treat these “author parodies” more like traditional parodies, satires, or something else entirely. The Supreme Court and the circuit courts have yet to address the issue, and the few district courts that have weighed in have propounded opposite holdings. Given the prevalence of author parodies such as “Perform This Way” in popular culture, how the law eventually decides to view these distinctive works will have significant implications for authors and appropriators alike. This article presents both an economic and legal argument for privileging author parodies in a fashion similar to parodies of a work.
The music of the artist known as Girl Talk consists of hundreds of pre-existing samples taken without permission from popular songs. As Girl Talk becomes more prominent, lawyers, journalists and bloggers have entered the debate regarding whether the use of pre-existing samples from copyrighted works is a “fair use” as defined in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.Brian Pearl analyzes the merits of the “fair use” argument in light of sparse and largely unsympathetic case law regarding music sampling and ultimately concludes that Girl Talk’s use of pre-existing samples fails to qualify as a “fair use.” The Article further proposes an amendment to the Copyright Act that would enable Girl Talk to record legally while fairly compensating the owners of the sampled works.
Scribd, a social publishing website, is being sued for copyright infringement for allowing the uploading of infringing works, and also for using the works themselves to filter for copyrighted work upon receipt of a takedown notice. While Scribd has a possible fair use defense, given the transformative function of the filtering use, Victoria Elman and Cindy Abramson argue that such filtration systems ought not to constitute infringement, as long as the sole purpose is to prevent infringement.