Fair Use vs Derivative Use and Parody Songs
We want to re-create-re-record the lyrics (although keeping the original harmonies/melodies as a parody and wonder if we would be violating any copyrights?
Ever wonder about those parody songs you hear and see on social media? You may wonder if you could simply upload a song you’ve added parody lyrics to. If you think about YouTube, most tunes sung to tracks are taken down unless they give all the credit to songwriters, publishers, etc. If you fail to do that, you may have your video removed for copyright violations.
Okay I just want to use the music but re-write the lyrics. That’s okay right?
Simply re-writing lyrics to the original track “to be funny” may cause people to falsely believe that they may or may not be in violation of copyright. Some people believe that they can create parodies under the free speech amendment in the United States and don’t have to get permission from the copyright holder who may or may not give permission to be recorded. Hopefully this helps explain how it works.
Fair Use vs Derivative Use
To use a song under Fair Use, you must not be using the “parodied” song simply because it has a catchy tune and or the right number of syllables in the chorus.
If you plan on using the parody in any advertising, in any medium including apps like Periscope, you would need the copyright holder’s permission. Not every songwriter wants their song used in offensive advertising or harassment, as some people claim to be doing on Periscope, for instance. For instance, while I love Ozzy Osbourne’s tune “Mr. Crowley”, I’m sure he nor his publishers would agree to it being used to target people on social media, as I am being targeted now.
Derivative Use. What the heck is that?
If you change the words to a song, it becomes known as a “derivative work” under the United States copyright law. Same music, changed lyrics equal “derivative work”. The copyright holder will give their permission to have their product used or not. So for instance, the one who created the initial product is in control of their product and has final say where, when and if their product can be used in any parody or other product. I don’t imagine a songwriter would want their music used in lyrics targeting people, especially if their product was well known like Ozzy’s tune, “Mr. Crowley”, which was why it was used, for attention.
To use the song in a parody, you would need to contact the music publisher, who is usually the copyright holder, to ask of their song can be used in any campaign anywhere. If you are using it to advertise others online and are in the video, you will need to make sure that the license also allows you to sync up both the audio (music) and the video. The copyright holder doesn’t have to give you or anyone permission to use their product to create derivative works.
As a former musician and songwriter, I think that credit should be given where credit is due. If you use another person’s music because you know it will get you more hits in your campaign, you should pay them. The artist does all the hard work and there is no reason for those who use their music in negative ways, to gain anything off of their hard earned products. If you think it’s easy to record any song, parody or not, that is under a publisher, you may need to recheck that. While it’s okay to make silly video’s which wouldn’t negatively impact a product or copyright holder, it’s not okay to use their production to act in a way they would not agree with.
Have a super day! #StandUpToBullying