from the Gaga goes Googoo dept
Lady Gaga is notoriously protective of her image. So much so, that it often seems that, to her, copyright is not about her music but her image. This attitude has led her to go on the offensive over random things that she (or her people) see as attacks on her image or brand — such as ice cream. Now, she has taken to task parodies of her songs. While parody is protected in the US under fair use laws, the same cannot be said about the UK.
According to a Guardian report, Lady Gaga has won an injunction against Moshi Monsters developers, Mind Candy, over a parody character name ‘Lady Googoo’. Lady Googoo is one of many parody characters in Moshi Monsters. Mind Candy had planned to build upon this character and had gone as far as creating animated music videos parodying songs by Lady Gaga (I have embedded one below for those feeling adventurous and/or masochistic). Unfortunately, Lady Gaga doesn’t have a sense of humor about the situation and it appears that neither do the UK courts.
Justice Vos has ruled that Mind Candy cannot play or offer for sale any Lady Googoo songs. However he did rule that the character, Lady Googoo, herself is safe to be included in the game as long as it is not associated with any of the songs.
Lady Gaga stated that this move was to protect her image as people may be confused and think that these parody songs and videos have an official connection to her. In response, Michael Action Smith, Mind Candy’s founder, said, “It’s pretty obvious that kids will be able to tell the difference between the two characters.” I can certainly tell the difference, but Lady Gaga and the courts couldn’t.
What is really troubling about this is that it exemplifies what damage can be done when fair use is limited. As UK copyright law is currently written, parody is not legal and many artists are limited because of it. As Alastair Shaw, counsel at law firm Hogan Lovells said:
Tribute bands and parody songs have been around for years but what this case shows is the potential power of registered trademark law to put a stop to some of their activities.
This may be particularly important for tribute acts or characters with names which are similar to the original acts, as they frequently are, who want to comercialise a track parodying a well-known song.
Without parody protection in copyright law, artists like Weird Al would have never become successful. Based on proposed changes to UK copyright laws, this type of parody could be protected in the future. Until the government of the UK takes action, more artists and companies will be harmed through lawsuits such as this. Not only will artists be harmed, but consumers and fans will be as well. As Smith says:
The shame is that millions of kids fell in love with Lady Goo Goo’s debut single on YouTube and now won’t be able to enjoy her musical exploits. It was all done in the name of fun and we would have thought that Lady Gaga could have seen the humor behind this parody.
So much for humor when faced against copyright laws.