SW Legal studies in Business

Parody of Song Allows Use without Copyright Violation

Court dismissed a copyright infringement suit by the owner of a song that was used as the basis for a song on a television program. Since the new song was a parody of the original song, it is a transformation of the song that is protected under the fair use doctrine.

Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words

Copyright; Song; Infringement; Fair Use; Parody; Transformative

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

“When You Wish Upon a Star” was written for the Walt Disney film Pinocchio. Bourne owns the copyright for the song. A segment on “Family Guy,” a Fox Network cartoon program, used the song as the basis for a song called “I Need a Jew.” Fox agrees that it used the original song for the melody for its song. Bourne sued for copyright infringement for using the song without permission.


Judgment for defendants. Under the fair use doctrine, the song “I Need a Jew” could reasonably be perceived as commenting on the original song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Hence, it was a parody. The parody was transformative in nature; the lyrics are almost completely different than the original song, but most listeners would know the basis of the music. Hence, the fair use doctrine applies as the parody did not infringe on the market for the original song.

Citation Bourne Co. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., ---F.Supp.2d--- (2009 WL 700400, S.D.N.Y., 2009)

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