Big Hairy Woman
March 7, 2014 6:09 AM   Subscribe

With this song, 2 Live Crew basically took the distinctive bass riff from the original Orbison song and changed the lyrics in true Crew style. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. is probably the seminal case for the modern application of the fair use doctrine. The lightning rod was 2 Live Crew and their allegedly parodic use of the "Pretty Woman" song. Instead of dismissing the Crew's claim on the basis that they had used the appropriated material for commercial gain, the court looked at the other factors of permissible fair use and determined that parody was indeed protected fair use, even though the perpetrators gained financially.

"The language of the statute makes clear that the commercial or nonprofit educational purpose of a work is only one element of the first factor enquiry into its purpose and character."

A unanimous decision twenty years ago today, March 7, 1994.
posted by three blind mice (22 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty bold move by a guy that went by the stage name Luke Skyywalker.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:12 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Biz Markie and the possibly best-named album ever, All Samples Cleared!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:15 AM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think we can safely say the court case is the only reason this cover version of an absolutely stunning and massively influential song is remembered by anyone.
posted by colie at 6:29 AM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wellllllcommmme to the fair use shopppp!
posted by introp at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I miss the days when hip-hop prominently featured "interposed scraper noises."
posted by anthom at 6:59 AM on March 7, 2014

If we're going to talk about the decision, it's probably worth a link to the article that started it all, Judge Leval's incredible Toward A Fair Use Standard, 103 Harvard L. Rev. 1105 (1990). In it, Judge Leval, one of the smartest and most thoughtful Judges alive, essentially looked at the entire history of fair use and made up the idea of "transformative use" out of thin air. Though it appears nowhere in the statute, "transformative" use is now the touchstone of fair use analysis.
posted by The Bellman at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Man, 2livecrew's rap sucked on that song (and was pretty weak in general).
posted by oddman at 7:41 AM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kraftwerk's The Man Machine is a much better song than Pretty Woman, so this scenario really should have played out with Dick Almighty.
posted by planetesimal at 7:43 AM on March 7, 2014

Kraftwerk's The Man Machine is a much better song than Pretty Woman

It's not really comparing like for like. I quite like the Kraftwerk piece, but it's not really a 'song'. It is a process of layering.
posted by colie at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2014

The studio is the instrument.
posted by planetesimal at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2014

Then how do they perform live?
posted by colie at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2014

posted by planetesimal at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2014

2 Live Crew juxtaposes the romantic musings of a man whose fantasy comes true, with degrading taunts, a bawdy demand for sex, and a sigh of relief from paternal responsibility. The later words can be taken as a comment on the naivete of the original of an earlier day, as a rejection of its sentiment that ignores the ugliness of street life and the debasement that it signifies. It is this joinder of reference and ridicule that marks off the author's choice of parody from the other types of comment and criticism that traditionally have had aclaim to fair use protection as transformative works.
posted by exogenous at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2014

Man, 2livecrew's rap sucked on that song (and was pretty weak in general).

It was a strange case for a rap fan. I was in high school and couldn't stand most of their music (a group who came together around a common lack of flow) and hated they became a synecdoche for hip hop, but we all wound up buying "Banned in the USA" in solidarity (and because the title track was probably Campbell's best work— which is why I only bought the single).
posted by yerfatma at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2014

They like to party and have a good time. There's nothing but pleasure written in their rhymes.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2014

I don't doubt 2 Live Crew have their merits, but this makes me a bit sad because 'Oh Pretty Woman' has one of the most swooningly lovely bridge sections of all time, and here we have 'degrading taunts' over the top of it for some reason.

Songwriters would give anything to pull off a bridge like Pretty Woman's (bridge starts at 1.06), which modulates from A to C for what appears at first to be a simple 50s-style doo-wop sequence (the same one as 'I want to hold your hand's' bridge in fact).

But the composer doesn't give us the expected climax and clear retransition that would have made this just another 50s-style bridge with a nice riff in the song.

Instead, the dream-like bridge is disorientatingly cut short by a bar and ends with a drift upwards from C to C sharp as the A chord is heard (1.34 in the link above). This floating effect perfectly captures the day dreamy moment the singer is supposed to be caught in and returning from and for me it's one of the best gravity-defying moments in all of pop.

As the song goes back to A major after 15 (not 16) bars, it drops the listener straight into a new verse prematurely but gently, with the colouring of the bridge key left hanging, making it feel like the listener is waking up having had a pleasant dream to reflect on.
posted by colie at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

Then how do they perform live?

$20 SAIT.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2014

> They like to party and have a good time. There's nothing but pleasure written in their rhymes.

Nah, it was bullshit misogyny and boring rhyme structures, mostly.
posted by planetesimal at 10:33 AM on March 7, 2014

colie, that description is beautiful. My favorite aspect of Orbison's Pretty Woman is how the bridge is the only part of the tune that deviates from the straight 4/4 snare beat and introduces a whole new backbeat with a swing feel. It's like a different song within the song.
posted by rocket88 at 2:54 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

2 Live Crew was saying what Roy Orbison's character was thinking while crooning "Pretty Woman"; is one supposed to think he was noticing her walking down the street for any other reason than fornication?
posted by Renoroc at 9:53 PM on March 7, 2014

Renoroc, we're all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars...
posted by colie at 12:49 AM on March 8, 2014

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