How legal is Jon Cozart's brilliant quintuple parody, AFTER EVER AFTER ?
March 15, 2013 7:30 PM   Subscribe

In AFTER EVER AFTER, make no doubt about it he uses the melodies and harmonic progressions of no less than five copyrighted Disney songs, slanders and tarnishes the good name of BP, and uses a lot of character names that are probably registered trademarks of a very powerful company. How legal is that?

I am just curious, here, I know that in some of the deeper discussions of Weird Al and his work, laws are described which state that there is a "fair use for parody" of copyrighted works.

Don't get me wrong, it is absolutely brilliant and I love it. But, is it legal to do something like that and put it up on YouTube for free, and also put it onto iTunes to generate income? If it was a Prince song that he was parodying, the Purple Police would shut it down overnight.
posted by shipbreaker to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAL, but yes, totally legal. Weird Al has been making money for years and years doing the same thing. Link
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2013

Response by poster: Fair Use and Copyright
posted by shipbreaker at 7:43 PM on March 15, 2013


It's perfectly legal to parody a song or a trademark but not often done because if the rights-holders want to make trouble for you they can make it expensive for you to defend your own rights.

It is less legal to slander or libel a reputation, but since the truth is always a defense to slander and libel in the U.S., companies suing on these grounds open themselves up to discovery that may be reasonably calculated to be relevant to the truth of the alleged slander, meaning that at least some of the time a company decides it will have more to lose going through that discovery than it will ignoring the slander.

It might also be the case that Mr. Cozart simply hasn't been sued yet. From what I can tell, the work in question is pretty new and I would not at all be surprised if Disney Legal and BP Legal are even now putting together strategy memoranda around the costs and benefits of trying to shut the thing down.
posted by gauche at 8:00 PM on March 15, 2013

Fair use--parody, transformative use.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2013

I'm not a lawyer, but you'll note that what Weird Al does are essentially cover versions with new lyrics. That is, he keeps the music the same, and, I believe the original artist is credited as a co-writer.

Claiming you can use bits of other people's musical compositions under "fair use" is plainly wrong. Look at any of the 100s of lawsuits over songs that sample other songs without permission. You have the right to parody something, but you absolutely do not have the right to re-use other people's musical compositions willy-nilly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:30 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Weird Al asks for and gets permission. Not the same as Cozart.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:55 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

BP doesn't have a right to not be mocked for one. So no way is BP going to sue Cozart. I mean, they could, because anyone can sue for anything in America. They just won't have much of a leg to stand on. Did we see them sue the hundreds of editorial cartoonists who made pretty much the same gag a couple years ago?

As for parody, which this most clearly is, Weird Al does ask permission, yes. Does he have to? Well, no...but fair use is a defense and it's still something that, should a copyright owner seek to sue, could go far in the system. I think, though, that because this song is transformative and comments on the original, it should be protected. But like I said earlier, anyone can (and do) sue for anything. So Weird Al is wise to make sure that all his ducks are in a row.
posted by inturnaround at 9:10 PM on March 15, 2013

Another deterrent to lawsuits is the Streisand Effect.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:52 PM on March 15, 2013

Weird Al asks for and gets permission. Not the same as Cozart.

Weird Al asks for, and usually gets permission. But he doesn't have to.

He had some problems with Lady Gaga.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:28 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Have to" is relative. Fair use does not specify the line between parody and infringement, and does not protect you from liability for reputational damage a priori. Parody is in the ear/eye of the beholder. It is subjective.

He will be sued. Bank on it. Hope he can afford big lawyers. Fair use these days means either you aren't doing something significant enough for copyright holders to care, or you have lawyers.

No company has been more vigorous in challenging fair use than Disney. Might as well have waved a red cape at a bull.
posted by spitbull at 5:44 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Parody is in the ear/eye of the beholder.

Yeah, I'm always a little bemused when I see quick, conclusory responses like, "It's parody, he's fine," or "Parody, transformative = legal." That isn't really how copyright works. These labels aren't iron shields sitting casually on a rack, that you can lift up for instant automatic defense. They're factors to be considered in an analysis. Both those factors and the actual facts (your work, the original work, differences, similarities, your stated purpose, etc.) are going to be weighed and considered by human beings.

Sometimes it's clear and obvious. South Park is parody. It's so well established as parody (and satire) that Stone and Parker can probably skate reeeeeally close to the line and maybe occasionally over it and never so much as blink. On the other hand, some twenty-year-old kid who puts a track for sale on iTunes? He should expect closer scrutiny, and it might be wise to actually have some ideas about how he'd answer a demand letter if one arrived.

Having said all that, there are myriad ways a copyright holder can respond to something like this without necessarily clubbing the kid over the head. For instance, Disney could offer to purchase the rights to the video from him for some random amount, say $20,000. If he sells, they take it down. Internet fame is fun and all, but that could be a year's tuition.

[Obviously none of this is legal advice. I am not your lawyer, nor Jon Cozart's, nor (sadly) Disney's.]
posted by cribcage at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or they could decide to make an example out of him, as they have done before. Disney is not known for playing nice. I think the virality of this particular video makes for an interesting conceptual challenge, however. Either they will make a deal or they will beat him senseless in court. They will not ignore it. The signal that would send would be, to Disney, unacceptable.

In addition to potential copyright infringement, many of the images used in that video are also Disney trademarks.

Hope Cozart's got money behind him.
posted by spitbull at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well if anyone remembers they Bonjour, Hey Girl parody of Beauty and the Beast, that thing went pretty viral in 2011. And Disney had it removed for copyright. But when I look for it now, somehow it appears to be on Funny Or Die. Not sure if Funny Or Die as a site fights for fair use or Disney just didn't notice because it was after all the attention died down. I believe it had over a million views in the first week or so back then (don't quote me), and now on Funny Or Die, it only has about 50k. If you google, you can see it got attention on the blogs of Entertainment Weekly, Perez Hilton, Tosh.0 and others at the time.

Dick move by Disney if they go after some college student. If anything, it makes me want to watch those movies again and I am in my late 20s, but I assume they don't like associating Disney films with profanity and such.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:13 PM on March 16, 2013

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