Lampoon Supports Rappers in Lawsuit

The Lampoon recently joined other comedy organizations in backing rap group 2 Live Crew by writing friend-of-the-court briefs to support the group's side of a Supreme Court case involving a parody of the 1964 Roy Orbison hit "Oh, Pretty Woman."

The 2 Live Crew parody uses much of the song's original music. It includes the line of lyrics, "Pretty woman, walking down the street," and variations with "big hairy woman," "bald-headed woman," and "two-timin' woman."

The case was argued Tuesday before the Supreme Court.

The attorney for Acuff-Rose Music, the company which owns the rights to the song, argued that copyright owners should be allowed to ban such parodies of their compositions. The rap version only seeks to cash in on the enduring popularity of the 1964 hit, attorney Sidney S. Rosdeitcher said earlier this week.

But a parody must borrow a certain amount of a song "so you know what is being made fun of," argued the rap group's attorney, Bruce S. Rogow. "Parody is a fair use unless it materially impairs the market for the original," he said.


Poonsters interviewed offered an interesting, if questionable, descrip- tion of their involvement with the case.

According to Lampoon President Brian H. Kelley'94, 2 Live Crew lead singer Luther Campbellcalled Lampoon trustees personally to request thatthe Lampoon rally behind him.

Josh B. Lieb '94 said he wrote his own versionof "Pretty Woman" and filed it with the SupremeCourt last April, but added that he had mistakenlyfiled it for a totally unrelated case.

"Considering that we gave the brief to thewrong case and considering the Supreme Court'shistoric anti-Lampoon bias, if anything we'regoing to hurt Campbell's case," said Kelley.

The parody was included in 2 Live Crew's 1989album "As Clean As They Wanna Be" despite the factthat Acuff-Rose had told the rap group it couldnot use the song.

Copyright law requires that performers receivepermission and pay royalties when substantiallyrewriting a protected song, unless the new versionrepresents a "fair use."

Justice John Paul Stevens noted during thearguments that 2 Live Crew offered to payAcuff-Rose a royalty for use of the song and wasrefused.

Each side claimed to be protecting the cause ofcreativity and free expression. Rosdeitcher saidfederal copyright law is intended to protect thecreativity of the original song-writer.

But parodies are creative also and should beencouraged, said Rogow, adding that parodies canbe used as a commentary on society.

"You can criticize society in many ways,"Justice Antonin Scalia said during the arguments,adding that a copyright owner might ask, "Why doyou have to take my tune to do it?"

This story was compiled with wiredispatches.