12

In The Simpsons Movie, there's a scene where Homer makes a pig walk on the ceiling while singing a parody of the Spider-Man theme.

The tune matches the original Spider-Man TV show theme almost exactly.

The Spider-Pig theme was later sold as part of The Simpsons Movie Soundtrack and can be purchased standalone through iTunes.

Did Fox need to get permission to use the Spider-Man theme, or does it count as parody?

  • Why would it need permissions? Isn't spider-man also from Fox? – Gustavo Gabriel Apr 16 '17 at 21:35
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    @GustavoGabriel Spider-Man was created by Marvel. The theme was created in the 60's for the Spider-Man TV show which was aired on ABC. It was also used in the Sony produced Spider-Man movies. Fox wouldn't own the rights to the theme – Steven M. Vascellaro Apr 16 '17 at 21:40
  • When is a parody not a parody? When there's only one-o'-dy. You've answered the question for yourself. – Nij Apr 17 '17 at 1:36
  • Think it would be difficult for pedantic Marvel lawyers to convince a judge or jury that the Simpsons is not, pretty clearly, in the category of parody. – PoloHoleSet Apr 17 '17 at 15:15
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    Market confusion. Marvel has a character spider ham from 1983 that they use often. – cde Apr 17 '17 at 16:46
9

Due to the nature of music related copyright laws, its anyone's guess. What we do know is that copyright exceptions allow for satire (using or changing a copyrighted work to make a statement on society) which this is not, and parody (using or changing a work to make a statement about the work), which this also is not. Aside from Fair Use exceptions, there is compulsory licenses for music. Since the lyrics were not significantly changed, a compulsory license would be valid. But the soundtrack release was a longer composition which could be considered to have changed the lyrics significantly, allowing a compulsory license to be pulled. Hence, Fox would have had to license the work from the owners and/or composers.

Considering this is a major production that would want to avoid any lawsuits or complications, they likely did license it even if they wouldn't need to. Fair use and compulsory licensing is essentially decided in court. Because they rather pay a negotiated license in order to avoid the prolonged, expensive court case to maybe decide in their favor.

Note the credits state:

SPIDER PIG
Based on the Spiderman Theme
Written by Bob Harris and Paul Webster
Parody lyrics written by James L. Brooks,
Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-
Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin,
Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman,
David Silverman, John Swartzwelder and
Jon Vitti

Attributed to the original writers.

  • I'm pretty sure this is parody, the credits even say so. – OrangeDog Apr 17 '17 at 13:42
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    @orangedog a parody makes fun or even a statement on the work it is parodying. Changing the lyrics alone does not make a parody even if they call it that. – cde Apr 17 '17 at 14:01
  • You can always argue the changes make fun of the original. – OrangeDog Apr 17 '17 at 15:52
  • I'm pretty sure there's no copyright exception for satire. In fact, a book called "The Cat Not in the Hat" was ruled by a court as infringing on Dr. Seuss's copyright because it was a satire on the O.J. Simpson trial and not a comment on Dr. Seuss's own work. – Kef Schecter Aug 16 '17 at 5:50
  • Compulsory licensing would generally require that lyrics be used exactly, and would always be limited to phonorecords (the legal term) which are not accompanied by other audiovisual content. While a parody of the music could certainly be combined with a parody of the lyrics without licensing, I don't know that a composer would required to grant a compulsory license for the use of parody lyrics with a song's original music. In any case, the presence of additional audiovisual content would certainly require a sync license to use the original music. – supercat Jan 24 '18 at 23:06

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