They say misery loves company, which is a perfect way to describe the premise behind an online tumblr that saw a correlation between the witty yet downtrodden world-views of Charlie Brown’s “good grief”-isms and seminal indie act The Smiths.
You may have already experienced the work of the smart online cookie who has combined the iconic band’s lyrics with the equally iconic comic strip, as it gained attention from American tastemakers such as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.
If not, you owe it to yourself to check out This Charming Charlie, a tumblr where the panels of Charles M. Schulz’ iconic Peanuts comic strips are imbued with the lyricism of Morrissey and Johnny Marr to brilliant effect.
But the San Fraciscan graphic designer behind the internet sensation, who’s made the 80s guitar band and the iconic characters of Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, and Linus seem like old bedfellows, has been stung by the legal team at a major record label for her creative endeavour, as Consequence Of Sound points out.
Lauren LoPrete is the Oakland based artist behind the popular This Charming Charlie, posting on the website after gaining inspiration from a 1986 concert poster for The Smiths.
But in a recent post on the tumblr (full points for being titled ‘I Know It’s Over’), The Smiths diehard – who also runs and designs for her own indie label, Loglady Records – laments that Universal’s publishing arm have stepped in to quash her online fun, citing the use of The Smiths lyrics as a breach of copyright, regardless of the obvious popularity it is bringing the band without asking for any financial interest in return.
“The Smiths licensing company (Universal Music Publishing Group) has started requesting posts be removed from This Charming Charlie. So far 6 posts have been removed, and it is increasing every hour,” writes LoPrete. “If you like the page, please save copies of the comics to your own computer.” Adding gravely: “It was fun while it lasted, I wish Morrissey and Marr were a bit more understanding.”
Universal’s takedown requests are the latest in a few extreme examples of copyright concerns recently. The major label muscling in on This Charming Charlie‘s creative celebration is reminiscent of Sony bullying an online label with legal threats for the misuse of sampling A Tribe Called Quest – over a free mixtape that didn’t actually use any samples of the legendary hip hop group but instead sourced the original tracks the Sony-owned group used.
More recently, popular streaming service Spotify was slammed with a copyright lawsuit from Ministry Of Sound, arguing that letting its users create their own Spotify playlists that ‘copied’ the tracklistings of their sucessful dance music compilation CDs, the streaming service should be pulled up legally as the compilations should be considered as intellectual property.
“What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them,” said Ministry Of Sound’s CEO Lohan Presencer of the lawsuit.
The Peanuts/Smiths mash-up follows a similar argument: should a particular string of words sung by a popular group be considered with the same intellectual property rights as the recorded music? Or is a legal attack on the individual’s right to creative expression a breach of ‘fair use’?
That was the argument at the centre of the messy legal court case that an Aussie record label found themselves in, after they picked the wrong fight over what they deemed the copyright misuse of a song by French indie favourites and forthcoming Future Music 2014 headliners, Phoenix. Unknowingly picking a legal battle with one of the world’s leading legal experts on Internet law and advocate for looser copyright restrictions. Whoops.