2 Live Crew “Pretty Woman” Parody Fair Use Case

A fair use copyright parody case involves the  rap group, 2 Live Crew, and the opening musical line of the song “Pretty Woman” from the original motion picture. The line was “Oh, Pretty Woman, walking down the street.” 2 Live Crew’s use of this line is considered fair because their melody and rest of lyrical work was completely different from the original “Pretty Woman” song. It was argued that the use of this line was “transformative” and it was the only line borrowed from the entire original song, therefore making it a different piece of music. This opening line, seven words, is the only similarity between the two songs. (1)

Acuff-Rose Music was responsible for bringing Luther Campbell, Luke Skyywalker, at the time and the rest of 2 Live Crew, to Court for copyright infringement. He claimed that the use of Roy Orbinson’s opening 7 words fell under the Fair Use Doctrine of the Copyright Act of 1976. Unfortunately for Acuff-Rose Music, Campbell prevailed and the court claimed that the using the line in their rap song was a parody and fell under fair use. According to the official court document this case was sent to the US Court of Appeals and reversed and later on sent back to a lower court for reconsideration. Five months later Campbell and Acuff-Rose Music agreed to settle in order to to avoid more legal expenses. (2)

I personally believe the court should have just ended the case at fair use with Campbell. This case took place in 1993-1994, but now-a-days you hear musical artists referencing their peer’s music quite often. To me, copying a popular 5-7 word phrase from a somewhat more popular artist in a less famous artist’s song, just promotes the more well-known artist’s music more. Any fan can recognize a lyric or two from their favorite band/artist in another person’s song. It screams subtle publicity in my eyes. It’s reminding of you of this song you love and subconsciously you may begin listening to that music again. It’s also linking a common interest between you and the new artist (the copier) because you both enjoy the original artist’s work.

1. “Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center.”Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center Summaries of Fair Use Cases Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. <http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/cases/>.

2. “Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994)..” Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994).. N.p., 9 Nov. 1993. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-1292.ZS.html>.


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