BMG has reached a settlement to end a copyright lawsuit against a toymaker that promoted a brand of “unicorn poop” with a song called “My Poops” – a scatological parody set to the tune of Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”
In an order Tuesday, a federal judge said that BMG and toymaker MGA Entertainment had “reached a settlement in principle” to resolve the lawsuit, marking an abrupt end to what would have been a high-profile dispute over copyright’s fair use doctrine when it comes to parody songs.
Neither side immediately returned requests for comment or more information about the terms of the settlement, like whether any money was exchanged.
Released to promote MGA’s Poopsie Slime Surprise toys – unicorns that release sparkling “unicorn poop” slime – “My Poops” features similar musical elements to Black Eyed Peas’ 2005 hit, which reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 and spent 36 total weeks on the chart. But it replaces the words with joke lyrics like “Whatcha gonna do with all that poop, all that poop.”
In a January complaint, BMG said the song was very clearly an infringement of its copyrights. In addition to copying key musical elements, BMG said, MGA’s song features a lead vocalist who “sounds very similar” to Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie.
“Music, especially a hit song such as ‘My Humps,’ adds great value when incorporated into a product or used in a video advertisement, because it increases consumer recognizability, consumer engagement and attention to the product,” BMG wrote in its lawsuit. “The infringing work is so substantially similar to ‘My Humps’ that it is obvious that the infringing work was intentionally copied.”
Federal protections for fair use expressly empower people to parody existing copyrighted works, and one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important copyright rulings held that 2 Live Crew was allowed to release a bawdy parody of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” without paying royalties. But the music industry’s premiere parodist, “Weird Al” Yankovic, voluntarily chooses to license all of the songs that he parodies. And the legal analysis is undoubtedly trickier when a parody song is used for outright commercial advertising, rather than merely as a new song.
Back in 2013, the Beastie Boys sued a toy company called GoldieBlox after it released a viral parody of the group’s 1987 song “Girls” to promote its engineering and construction toys for girls. After the band threatened copyright infringement, GoldieBlox argued fair use – saying it had aimed to criticize the “highly sexist” message of the original Beastie Boys track and “further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes.”
But six months later, GoldieBlox agreed to a settlement in which it apologized to the Beastie Boys and agreed to donate a portion of its revenues to charities of the band’s choosing.
Powered by Billboard.