Thursday, December 30, 2010

Usher v. Homer Simpson

Usher is being charged by a group of Mississippi DJ’s of plagiarism. He allegedly based a few lines (both the lyrics and melody) of OMG! from a song sung by the fictional Homer Simpson in a 2003 episode of the Simpsons. Usher’s song goes “Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow. Honey got some boobies like wow, oh, wow,” while Homer’s is as follows: “Christmas in December wow, wow, wow! Give me tons of presents now, now, now!” To listen to the mash-up of the Usher-Homer song, go to

So is Usher guilty of plagiarism, which is a form of copyright infringement? Under Sec 172.1 of the Intellectual Property Code, “musical compositions, with or without words” are among the works entitled to copyright protection. Meanwhile, there is infringement whenever a person carries out the acts granted exclusively to the copyright owner under Sec 177, which includes “reproduction of the work or substantial portion of the work” and “dramatization, translation, adaptation, abridgment, arrangement or other transformation of the work” without the owner’s authorization. Although the similarity is admittedly substantial, Usher can take refuge in the fact that the only standard for copyright protection is originality, which was explained by the SC in Ching Kian Chuan v. CA to mean that the work be “made with the creator’s own skill, judgment and labor, without directly copying or evasively imitating the work of another.” Our law allows parallel creation; therefore there will only be infringement if Usher’s work is not original. The question now is, is it?

If you are for the defense of Usher, you can argue that it was such an old episode and that it is highly unlikely that a man, such as him, watches cartoon reruns. Also, there are so many songs out there which repeat words in three’s, and the reason why they sound similar is because the words were more said than sung. On the flip side, this isn’t the first time Usher has been accused of stealing another artist’s work. Recently, a songwriter accused him and Alicia Keys of swiping her song ‘Caught Up’ for his ‘Confessions’ album. I know that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it does make you wonder...

Katrina Sy, 6th Blog Entry

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