Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fox fight for fair use of 'When you wish upon a star'

Here's an interesting case, Bourne v Fox. Bourne is the sole copyright owner of the song made famous by Disney, 'When You Wish Upon a Star.' Julie Hilden explains the background at Findlaw.

"Fox's animated show "The Family Guy" is being sued for copyright violation - for the second time this year.

The plaintiff in the suit is the company that owns the rights to the song "When You Wish Upon a Star." The suit, filed October 3, alleges that the song was combined with what some have suggested were anti-Semitic lyrics. (The full lyrics can be found on page 9 of the complaint, and they refer to Jews as having "killed my Lord.")

The song, entitled "I Need a Jew" was featured in an episode called "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein." (The "Weinstein" involved is a non-famous person named "Max," though the selection of last name may well have intentionally evoked brothers Bob and Harvey, founders of Miramax, whose father was also named Max.) In the episode, the reason the singer says he "needs a Jew" is to handle his money after a financial reversal - providing some basis for claims of anti-Semitic stereotyping, at least on the character's part...

If the use of "When You Wish Upon a Star" was a commentary on the original, it was a commentary only in the very loosest possibly sense. Indeed, I believe most viewers would not deem the episode to have been "about" the song "When You Wish Upon a Star"...

That's a problem for "The Family Guy," because a parody, to be a parody, has to have an object. Moreover, it has to have the right object: If the parody's object isn't the very material that is appropriated, then there is no need to use the "recognizable sight or sound" to evoke that material. Deciding to do a parody of one particular work doesn't give you an all-purpose "license to infringe" that you can use with respect to any work you want."

Squares very nicely with threatening selected Republican presidential candidates with copyright infringement suits doesn't it.

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