APRIL FOOLS! Yesterday, we released the fake blog post below for a little bit of fun, but also thought it would be a way to show highlight the intricacy of copyright law. This year we expect copyright to be in the spotlight, so we thought it only best to have a fun conversation about it.
While absurdist, this article is not completely unlikely. Copyright was designed to protect innovation and inspire creativity, while allowing the creators to direct how their work should be used or presented. However, too much can cause innovation to be stifled and it is necessary to find the balance between protection and prevention. That is why Public Knowledge is committed to Copyright Reform, in order to get back to the original purpose of copyright law, to promote innovation and creativity.
More of our work on Copyright Report can be found here.
It was the anguished screams heard ‘round the world. On March 24th, human click-bait Zayn Malik announced he would be leaving One Direction, the biggest “It” boy band this side of 2005. The heartthrob cited several reasons for his departure, but the one that really rankled the band’s fandom was his intention to spend more normal time with his fiance, Perrie Edwards. Almost instantly, the Twitterverse exploded with accusations that this “siren” was breaking up the preeminent boy band of a generation.
That devastating rationale struck a different tone with a longtime name in the industry – one more akin to the ring of a cash register. Now, even as fans around the world are still reeling from the shock, Mr. Malik is being sued by the future beneficiaries of John Lennon. They accuse Malik of unauthorized appropriation of Lennon’s work – although “breaking up the band” for a love interest was not unprecedented, it’s undeniable that Lennon’s perceived abandonment of the Beatles for Yoko Ono became an important part of the band’s legacy.
An anonymous source familiar with the case says, “When Zayn’s announcement caused fans to flock to Twitter grieving that a ‘new Yoko’ was tearing apart this generation’s quintessential heartthrobs, litigious ears future Lennon beneficiaries perked right up.”
Inspired by the Marvin Gaye estate's recent $7.4 million copyright victory against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for copying musical elements many had assumed to simply be part of a musical genre, the Beneficiaries now seek to stop boy bands from copying John Lennon's financial succesful life choices.
One Direction, whose members hail from England, has a history of being likened to the original British Invasion, The Beatles, but this crossed the line. The future beneficiaries of Lennon could not stay silent any longer. “John’s band inevitably has inspired millions of other pop groups, but when this blatant rip off came to light it was clear to the Lennon Family that One Direction’s has been systematically pulling moves from the Beatles playbook since day one.”
“This is theft,” the filing continues. “Plain and simple.”
“While we acknowledge that many artists build off inspiration they derive from past works, what Zayn has done here far surpasses the bounds of reason. This is a clear appropriation of the techniques John first employed to gin up controversy and devastate young women everywhere.”
Representatives for Mr. Malik disputed any overt connection between the storied Lennon/Yoko relationship and his abrupt departure from the band. “Anyone can see that my client’s approach [is obviously distinct] from Mr. Lennon’s strategy. Unlike Mr. Lennon, who vociferously embraced a ‘free love’ philosophy with Yoko, my client [Malik] has committed wholly to one woman, at a far younger age [than Lennon], with whom he would like to live a normal, low-profile life.”
Indeed, Malik has had some of his own problems with the “free-love” lifestyle – he weathered a controversy in which one young woman took photos of him sleeping in her bed after a reportedly amorous encounter. Malik has since tried to distance himself from those types of wild ways and increasingly eschewed publicity. To some, that could be interpreted as a calculated divergence from the Lennon technique – an original way to break off from the insanely popular boy band, leaving fans everywhere inconsolably, screechingly distraught.
Whether or not the future beneficiaries of Lennon will be successful in their suit remains to be seen. At this point, Malik’s best defense is that one cannot hold a monopoly on such a standard act. Notably, Justin Timberlake faced similar fan hysteria when he broke from millennial favorite *NSYNC, with many citing pop princess Britney Spears, his then-girlfriend, as the instigator. Whatever the outcome, this case highlights the increased need for a close examination of the current state of copyright. It asks, when is “plagiarism” really homage, or even mere coincidence? How can we ensure a legal environment where artists are not dissuaded from embracing inspiration they derive from artists of yore?
At press time, Mr. Malik was reportedly asking Siri who The Beatles were.
Image credit: Flickr user Rev. Beraldo