A couple of weeks ago I talked about current copyright law and I started thinking about why people still get so confused about it. For example, is fan fiction illegal or does it fall under fair use? What about song parodies? Are there different standards for different media? As it turns out, it depends. Really clear, right?
Weird Al has made a career out of parodying popular songs, using the music but reworking the lyrics. The FAQ on his website explains a bit of the law and his personal ethics. Prince has never allowed any of his works to be parodied and though Al really doesn't need his permission to do so he respects his decision. Many years ago Al wanted to rework "Live and Let Die" as "Chicken Pot Pie" but Paul McCartney wouldn't sign off on it because of his vegetarianism and Al respected that. He's a professional.
Bill Watterson, the creator of "Calvin and Hobbes," has been fighting a losing battle against piracy of his images for years. If he refused to merchandise his characters at the height of their popularity it's a safe bet he also didn't approve (and isn't getting paid for) Calvin peeing on a Ford logo or kneeling before a cross. The messages in those images only work if you make the leap that it's bad boy Calvin doing whatever.
Someone who never shied away from protecting his copyrights was J.D. Salinger. He was involved in a copyright dispute with a Swedish writer when he died. I can't find any information about it's being dropped so I'm assuming that his estate is still suing. The book -- 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye -- has been published in the UK, which the US has copyright agreements with so it will be interesting the see how it shakes out. The US doesn't have a copyright agreement with Iran, though, and Salinger was unable to stop the distribution of the film Pari by Dariush Mehrjui inside Iran. An injunction was granted to keep it from being shown inside the US. Mehrjui said that Salinger's action against him was "bewildering" but it was only if you didn't really know Salinger.
So, a couple of things to think about there. Do artists have the moral right to object to their creations being used in whatever way their fans want? Or do they simply have to take whatever comes from putting their work out there? What do you think? As you think about it, have some Weird Al.