The publishing house that registered and is responsible for the licensing of the Black Eyed Peas song “My Humps” has filed a lawsuit against a toymaker for using a large portion of the composition for an ad, changing words to say “My Poops.” The music giant claims the commercial “devalued” the chart topper.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, attorneys for music publisher BMG Rights Management filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court against MGA Entertainment, the makers of the Poopsie Slime Surprise, a “unicorn doll that excretes sparkling slime.” The goal of the lawsuit is to protect will.i.am.’s interests after the company allegedly parodied his 2005 hit that celebrated the curves of a woman’s derriere to promote the Poopsie Slime toy, Rolling Stone reports.
What is Copyright Infringement?
According to Copyright.gov, infringement occurs when “a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”
In this case, the makers of the Poopsie Slime Surprise are being accused of creating a “derivative work” in a fashion that was not approved by BMG and will.i.am, the copyright owners. It further alleges it would not have approved it even if it were submitted because of the association with the sparkly excrement of the mythical character.
Composition Takes Center Stage of Lawsuit
The entertainment company claims the use in this manner infringes on the copyright of the multi-platinum original song, with rewrites of the original lyrics to the melody, saying, “Whatcha gonna do with all that poop, all that poop.”
There are other issues BMG has with the song, particularly, the vocalist who “sounds very similar” to Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson, the Black Eyed Peas lead singer on the song, according to Billboard. It states the lead singer in the parody uses “a similar delivery and vocal inflections as used by Fergie.”
“Music, especially a hit song such as ‘My Humps,’ adds great value when incorporated into a product or used in a video advertisement, because it increases consumer recognizability, consumer engagement, and attention to the product,” BMG wrote in its lawsuit. The infringing work is so substantially similar to ‘My Humps’ that it is obvious that the infringing work was intentionally copied.”
The complaint alleges there are multiple similarities between both songs, including the melody, bass line, rhyme scheme, chord progression, cadence and other key musical elements.
Marketing is also an issue
BMG also objects to the name of the song, saying it is “an obvious play” on the original pop radio banger.
One of the issues in the dispute is the release and placement of the parody. There is a music video connected to “My Poops” on YouTube and the packaging on the doll directs the buyer to the video.
Moreover, on the actual unicorn toy, there is a “heart-shaped bellybutton” that when pressed plays a snippet of the song.
“Defendant has been selling the Dancing Unicorn Toys incorporating the Infringing Work all over the world and has received substantial revenue,” the lawsuit states. “The Poopsie Slime Surprise product line has generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for Defendant.”
BMG says the defendant, which is behind the Bratz line, exploited the composition and despite outreach “has refused to remedy its wrongdoing, leaving BMG no alternative but to bring this action.”
The civil action is asking for “monetary damages and injunctive relief against Defendant for copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States,” and until the lawsuit is resolved, the music company wants the court to provide a temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunction against MDA, its officers, directors, agents, employees, representatives, and all persons acting in concert.
MGA has not responded publicly to the lawsuit.