Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.
510 U.S. 569 (1994)
Orbison and Dees wrote a song
called 'Pretty Woman', which they sold to Acuff-Rose.
Campbell asked Acuff-Rose for
permission to make a parody version of the song that he claimed was
intended to "through comical lyrics to satirize the original work.
They said no. Campbell made the song anyway.
The song went on to sell over
Acuff-Rose sued for copyright
Campbell argued that he was
protected by the fair use
provision (17 U.S.C. §107) because his song was a satire of
Acuff-Rose argued that fair
use was not applicable because
Campbell appropriated the work for commercial use.
The Trial Court found for
Campbell. Acuff-Rose appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court looked
to §107 and found that Campbell's
use did not qualify as fair use because:
The commercial nature of
the parody rendered it presumptively unfair,
Campbell had taken too much
of the original work by taking the "heart" of the original and
making it the "heart" of a new work, and
Market harm had been
established by a presumption attaching to commercial uses.
The US Supreme Court reversed
The US Supreme Court noted
that parodies in general might be covered by fair use or they might not, depending on the specific
The Court used the
four-factor test of §107.
Is the purpose and
character of the use commercial or non-commercial?
The Court found that just
because Campbell's use was commercial doesn't create a presumption that
it is not fair use. It is just
one factor to be considered.
The nature of the
The Court found that this
didn't really apply since the artistic value of parodies is often found
in their ability to invariably copy popular works of the past.
The amount of the original
The Court found that
Campbell had used the 'heart' of the original work, but that copying
the 'heart' is required in order to be a successful parody. Since
Campbell substituted mostly his own lyrics, it couldn't be said that he
took more of the original work than was necessary.
It can only be parody if
you can recognize the original material. (On the other hand, satire
doesn't require recognition of the original material)
The effect on the potential
The Court found that in
general parodies do not harm the marketability of the original work
because the two serve different market functions.
However, if Acuff-Rose
could show that they lost the chance to sell the rights to another
parodist because of Campbell's version, then they might have a case.