|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-10-28
A New York federal court has upheld the "fair use" doctrine by throwing out a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment and rappers Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and the Alchemist for copyright infringement.
The plaintiff, Abilene Music, accused the rappers and Sony, which released the album, of infringing its copyright in the song "What a Wonderful World."
The infraction allegedly occurred when the trio made slang references to marijuana in a rap that began with a variation on the first three lines of the song popularized by Louis Armstrong.
The defendants successfully argued that while the song's lyrics were adapted from "What a Wonderful World," they were protected as fair use under the Copyright Act.
In granting a summary judgment for Sony and the rappers, Judge Gerard Lynch said the rap was clearly a parody, intended to criticize and ridicule the cheerful perspective of the original song.
The judge also noted that the rap made key changes to the lyrics and to the overall effect of the lines, and it was not a rote imitation of the original.
Lynch wrote: "Where the original first three lines of 'Wonderful World' describe the beauty of nature, its 'trees' and 'roses' in 'bloom,' reads more like an invitation to get high with the singer." The lyrics read as:
"I see buds that are green, red roses too.
"I see the blunts, for me and you.
"And I say to myself: What a wonderful world."
The slang reference to marijuana and the dark nature of the rap tune was in stark contrast to the mood of beauty in the original song, the court pointed out.