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What is the best way to alert copyright holders of copyright infringement?

New York, NY |
Filed under: Lawsuits and disputes

It occurred to me several hours ago that the official website for the vile, disgusting and immoral Westboro Baptist Church allows it's visitors to freely download parodies of existing songs by many popular artists (such as Ke$ha, Adele, One Direction etc). Assuming they haven't legally gotten consent to release the tracks, isn't this illegal? And how would be the best way to alert copyright holders of this apparent copyright infringement. A full list of the parodies are here: and a link to their downloads page is here:

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Hi,

    I am not sure what exactly you are stating here. Are you suggesting that you, who are not affiliated with them in any way, want to protect the intellectual property of famous artists on your own accord because you believe they are infringing on them?

    If the songs are in fact actual parodies then it is entirely possible that they have a legitimate defense here, which needs to be considered.

    I would advise that you concern yourself with your legal rights and obligations and not get involved with infringers in any way. If they are indeed doing something wrong believe me the copyright enforcement trolls will catch up with them and it will not be pretty.

    If I am misunderstanding what is going here feel free to clarify in the comments.

    Best regards,
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

  2. Only the owner of the copyright has standing to enforce it. You certainly can exercise your free speech to notify the copyright owners, but as someone who works in this space, I can assure that the major music publishers and record companies monitory use of their songs carefully. You won't be telling them anything they don't know about the abhorent Westboro Baptist Church.

    You should know that as much as many of us despise the Westboro Baptist Church, it has first amendment rights----including the right to make parodies. True parodies are protected from claims of copyright infringement under the "fair use" doctrine---and this is so even if they are vile and disgusting.

    The best approach to dealing with Westboro is to fight back by exercising your own first amendment rights to challenge their arguments and point of view---use twitter, facebook, and any other vehicle available to you to expose their vile views and behavior. But you cannot expert people in the music industry to rise up and assert their copyrights as a political statement---decisions to assert copyrights generally are based on cold economic calculation, and unfortunately the cost of attempting to enforce copyright is often greater than the economic returns.

  3. Mr. Ross is spot on. Parody defense, copyright holder's awareness, and best way to fight back.

    As sad as it is to allow some people to speak out with such hate riddled and disrespectful actions, to stop them would be to go down the same slippery slope the Nazi's went down in selectively restricting the rights of minority groups. It is this great non-intuitive tolerance of alternative, different, minority viewpoints that makes uthe USA the home of the "free." Even if those viewpoints are disgusting, degrading and demoralizing to the families and honor of those soldiers who died to protect that same freedom, and yet which the Westboro Babtist Church takes advantage of when it protests at those soldier's funerals.

    My disclaimer is simply that Avvo already has an adequate disclaimer.

  4. Parodies are generally not copyright infringement and the artists surely know about them already. However, satires are likely copyright infringement, at least according to the US Supreme Court in Campbell v Acuff-Rose. See a nice ABA IP Committee roundtable paper on this parody/satire dichotomy at I think there is also arguably trademark dilution by tarnishment, to the extent the song titles are also trademarks (most are not). I think these are satires, not parodies, and Westboro are misnaming them parodies to try to avoid copyright infringement liability. I am surprised some artist has not sued them as a matter of principle, but I can understand that any artist might conclude that would be counterproductive. Westboro has first amendment protection for speech, but I think they would likely lose on copyright infringement. They have no need to steal copyrighted songs to get their sick message out. Westboro is doing satires, since they are not poking fun at the artist but instead attacking third parties other than the artist, such as attacking homosexuals, Jews, soldiers, etc. in their wacko self-righteous publicity stunts. However, I suppose no artist wants to fight a battle with Westboro when there is likely little to gain financially and it could end up being a big drain on time and even draw retribution that would make it a net loss for the artist.

    So, bottom line, this is likely a waste of your productive efforts. The best counterattack for Westboro is to ignore them. What they most want you to do is to call attention to them by publicizing them. That gets them donations by sympathetic wackos. Don't get them donations.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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