David Cross Covers BofA U2 Cover

Last week, David Cross and Johnny Marr opened the Modest Mouse show with a cover of Bank of America’s Ethan Chandler’s U2 cover heard round the world.

Above, the shocking footage.

Blithely ignorant of the laws protecting American’s right to parody, Universal Music Publishing Group has C&Ded those posting Chandler’s original video. If they did the same to Mr. Cross, it would make for a great Arrested Development episode.

Inside, more shocking, grainier footage. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. nick says:

    Universal doesn’t really seem to care that they are systematically alienating every young consumer on the planet.

    First they demand a cut of Zune device sales, because as UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says, “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it’s time to get paid for it.”

    Then they up and sue MySpace for copyright infringement, because the social networking site, quote, “formats videos in a way that lets members play and redistribute the content.”

    And now they issue an inane C&D order for a completely legal parody of a song that was simply sung to the tune of a U2 song. Brilliant.

    Universal, did you take notice of the RIAA’s actions over the past few years and say to yourself, “F*ck, we can do worse than that, and a hell of a lot faster!”

    Well kudos, you assholes, you succeeded.

    Links to articles:

  2. plumpy says:

    You folks need to read up on parody before go around claiming this was “completely legal”. SOME parody is legal, but there are limitations that need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, it’s generally advised to take ONLY as much original (source) material as needed and in general it looks a lot better if you’re making fun of the thing you’re taking material from. Since this parody was making no point about U2 or their music, it’s pretty questionable whether or not it would be declared legal.

    The famous quote from the Supreme Court is that parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works” (emphasis mine, obvio….

    I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that’s how fair use parody works, and going around saying it’s “clearly legal” doesn’t make it so.

  3. plumpy says:

    Blithely ignorant of the laws protecting American’s right to parody

    Maybe. But there’s more to parody than just declaring it so. The legality of parody is something that needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In particular, you should only take as much of the original (source) material as necessary, and the parody should be making some point about the thing you’re sampling. Since the song wasn’t making any point about U2, it’s pretty questionable whether or not this would be declared legal.

    The famous quote from the Supreme Court about parody is that parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works” (e….

    So before you and others go around calling it “completely legal parody”, you best learn a little more about what makes a completely legal parody. Unless you’re a judge with the case in front of you, you probably can’t really say for sure.

  4. RumorsDaily says:

    The Supreme Court is pretty lenient, you could probably make an argument (and this is a rather disgusting argument mind you) that Bank of America/MBNA was commenting on the lack of commerciality in the original. It was all about love and brotherhood (or something) and NOT at all about how important it is to make money. That’s not any more outlandish than the argument being made in the Acuff Rose case.

  5. RumorsDaily says:

    Actually, the funny part about this is that David Cross’s cover is a pretty good parody of the FIRST parody. It’s impressive because it was done without changing any of the words or the music to the song. Now that would be a fun parody case: can the change on context alone, with no change in the actual song, be enough to have it qualify as parody under American law? Clearly David Cross is mocking the Bank of America song… would a court see it that way?

  6. pronell says:

    Was David Cross getting paid to do this at the Modest Mouse concert? (Honest question.. it’d certainly be an odd gig if he was paid) Otherwise, what’s the tipping point? That it took place in a commercial venue? That too many people listened?
    Seems more than a little silly to begin with.

  7. Ben Popken says:

    Recontextualization is king.

  8. Skeptic says:

    “Recontextualization is king.”

    Indeed you are right. David Cross is parodying Ethan Chandler’s version, however, Chandler’s version was not a parody of the original. Chandler’s version was a commercial rewrite of U2’s “One” as motivational/celebratory/humourous song to add some fun to a conference. Any comedy in the BofA version was designed to be self-contained and not really referential to the serious original lyrics. It is only outside of the BofA conference that the song, exposed to the light of outside context, becomes an unintentional parody. Chandler is in no way protected by the parody exception to copyright law.

  9. Law-Vol says:

    By the way…there is ZERO right to injoin a cover band.

    Cover play is subject to a compulsory license of 8 cents per minute. Provided you pay, they can’t touch you.

  10. RumorsDaily says:

    As long as they’ve allowed one cover. If they’ve never allowed a cover, you’re out of luck.