Chris Turner, Radiohead and Copyright

(I wasn’t going to post until tonight, but Wendy told me that the story I’m about to tell appeared on Copyfight. I’m not going to get scooped by BoingBoing this time, especially since I’m much closer to the story than their resident copyright guru, Cory Doctorow, is.)

Chris “Turner” Turner is an old friend of mine from our DJing days at Crazy Go Nuts University’s engineering pub, Clark Hall Pub. He is also an award-winning magazine writer and recently release his first book, Planet Simpson, a 450-page thick book that takes both a scholarly and a personal look at The Simpsons as both the reflector and director of popular culture. On a blog bearing the same name as his book, he (or more often, his wife, Ashley Bristowe) chronicles his adventures in the wild world of book publishing and promoting.

Turner has one entry that’s caught the interest of Copyfight. In the

entry, he talks about how he had to pay US$350 to Warner Brothers in order to quote a couple of

lines from a handful of Radiohead songs in Planet Simpson, while not

having to pay a single dime to Fox for the zillions of quotes from

Simpsons characters. He also notes:

“…of all the TV shows and movies and books and rock & roll songs I discuss in Planet Simpson (a vast, vast, vast

number), the only artists I’ve met personally are Radiohead. In other

words, I’ve had to pay to discuss the work of the only people cited in

the book who, in theory, I actually could’ve asked in person for

permission to use their work.”


my mind, quoting portions of lyrics and attributing them to the artist

should be considered fair use. However, the record companies don’t

think so, and this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has

happened. Pete Abrams had to change some strips of his webcomic, Sluggy Freelance, after being spanked for usiing — and attributing — the lyrics for James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.

We really need to spank the record companies.

3 replies on “Chris Turner, Radiohead and Copyright”

So you know, it’s pretty much standard practice in publishing, near as I can tell, to ask for permission to use song lyrics. It’s also considered professional courtesy for permission to quote from books, but only the music industry ever makes you pay.

And it would appear that the publishing industry is only afraid of the music industry, because when we couldn’t get Foucault’s permission to reprint from his collected works, we just ran with it. Whereas when we couldn’t secure permission from Nirvana’s motley estate to quote from their lyrics, I went back and changed my citations to paraphrases at the urging of my various publishers.

Ridiculous but true: “… and then on the chorus of ‘Teen Spirit,’ Cobain suggests that he’s arrived at a poorly lit party venue of some sort ready to be entertained, accompanied by a person of mixed white and black ethnicity, a person whose skin lacks pigmentation, a small winged blood-sucking insect, and his own sexual urge.” This passage doesn’t actually appear in my book, but you get the picture.

Oh, and I hereby grant you permission to reprint my parodic paraphrasing of the chorus of “Teen Spirit” as it could’ve appeared in my book (but didn’t) on the World Wide Web (or “Interweb”) in perpetuity.



We really need to spank the record companies.

We already do — it’s legal to download their music for free in Canada. And we’ll continue to spank them until they boot our asses back into place when they tax our Internet access for the right to do it. 🙂

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