What do the Supreme Court and “Pretty Woman” have in common?

Answer: FAIR USE!! In a groundbreaking case for Fair Use pertaining to commercial music — Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994) — the Supreme Court invoked Fair Use and specifically the concept of parody in their ruling in favor of 2 Live Crew’s remake of Roy Orbison’s iconic song “Oh, Pretty Woman.”  2 Live Crew had sought to license the song from Acuff-Rose Music, but Acuff-Rose Music refused, and the rap group released the song anyway. Justice David Souter wrote the majority opinion, widely recognized as the first to recognize “transformative use” in conjunction with Fair Use in litigation, even though “transformative use” was not (and still is not) part of the statutory language of the U.S. Copyright Law. More than 20 years later, “transformative” Fair Use  has been the basis for numerous important copyright cases, such as the Authors’ Guild v. Google.


Stim, Rich. “Summaries of Fair Use Cases.” Copyright and Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries. Accessed February 20, 2016. http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/cases/

Greenhouse, Linda. “Ruling on Rap Song, High Court Frees Parody From Copyright Law.” New York Times, March 8, 1994. Accessed February 19, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/08/us/ruling-on-rap-song-high-court-frees-parody-from-copyright-law.html

“Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. 510 U.S. 569 (1994)” Justia. Accessed February 19, 2016. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/510/569/case.html


Margaret Ericson, Arts Librarian and Copyright Liaison.