A disagreement over rap group 2 Live Crew‘s parody of the Roy Orbison hit “Oh, Pretty Woman” will be used by the Supreme Court to resolve an important copyright law dispute.
The court said yesterday it will decide whether copyright owners may bar others from borrowing a song’s words and music for a mocking sendup.
The rap group said its parody was a fair use of Orbison’s 1964 song and did not require permission from the copyright owner.
The group said its parody is part of an American tradition of creating sendups of popular songs of the day. “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star Spangled Banner” started as political parodies of English songs, the 2 Live Crew appeal said.
The controversial 2 Live Crew has previously tangled with prosecutors over allegations of obscenity. The case accepted for review yesterday does not involve obscenity, but a song parody that simply displeases the owners of the copyright on the original.
The parody uses much of the Orbison song’s music and the first line of lyrics: “Pretty woman, walking down the street.” Then it deviates to “big hairy woman,””baldheaded woman” and “two-timin’ woman,” ending with “now I know the baby ain’t mine.”