Danish "Gangnam Style" mayors threatened with copyright lawsuit by Universal

Four mayors of Danish towns have been targeted by Universal Music and threatened with lawsuits unless they pay the media giant $42,000 within 24 hours -- because they made a Gangnam Style parody and posted it to YouTube. The video features the mayors dancing and illustrating the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs in their cities. Universal says that the mayors' use of the actual soundtrack in the video was a step too far.

The argument appears to stem from the use of the track. While the mayors believe their contribution to the Psy phenomenon was entirely for parody purposes and therefore fair use, Universal sees things very differently. They insist that the mayors were actually attempting to increase their own profiles and used the video – and Universals copyrights – in order to boost their political careers.

“It is clear that we have in mind that there are local elections in a minute,” said Universal’s Dennis Ploug in a statement.

As a result, Universal say that the mayors will have to pay a bill of almost $42,000 ($10,500 each) to obtain a license to use the music in the video – and they have just 24 hours to stump up the cash.

“We have given them a payment deadline of Friday, but if they do not pay before then it becomes a real action for infringement, and so the amount will be completely different,” Ploug concludes.

Universal Music Tells Gangnam Parody Mayors: Pay $42,000 By Tomorrow, Or Else [Andy/TorrentFreak]


  1. This is FANTASTIC NEWS, people! Legislators don’t care about laws victimising kids and nerds, but when they are themselves targeted? Why, these laws are clearly ridiculous and must be repealed, pronto!

    It’s just a shame these are lowly mayors and not members of parliament, but it’s better than nothing.

    1. Politicians being little sociopaths that need to personally feel pain to understand the pain of others is a pretty common theme.  Just look at the Republicans in the US.  Of the Republican politicians who are openly for gay marriage, how many of them have a gay son or daughter?  I bet it is more than half.  They can’t conceive of the pain they are inflicting upon others with their government manded bigotry until it is personally inflicted upon them or someone very close to them.

      I have a nasty feeling that the democratic selection process selects for borderline sociopaths.  Think of democracy as a game.  If the game was throwing rocks, our politicians would be folks who are jacked.  If the game was running marathons, our politicians would be long legged runners.  The game is none of those.   The game we use to select our political class sure as shit isn’t a test of governance.  The game is campaigning, and I don’t think that the winners of that game make terribly fit governors.  I think the campaign game selects for sociopaths who are not terribly bright in terms of governance and have little empathy.  The only real savings grace to the democracy game is that losers are easily tossed.  You can’t keep them from getting power, but if they are grossly incompetent once they wield it, you can toss them easily enough.

      Personally, I wish we could come up with some better way of selecting leaders.  I know that someone like me would NEVER be able to be president.  I have far too much empathy to exist in the current system, and it isn’t like I am a terribly empathetic person.  If you gave me Obama’s job tomorrow, at an absolute bare minimum, I would have rescheduled pot and pardoned all non-violent drug offenders before my first day.  You have to be a bit fucked in the head to be able to justify being personally responsible for the utter destruction of hundreds of thousands of American lives for doing something that you yourself have personally done.  Yet, we have elected three such sociopaths in a row, and I wouldn’t be shocked to learn Ronny Reagan and Jimmy Carter make it four or five psychos in a row.

    2. Having grown up in Denmark in one of these towns I can assure you that these Mayors don’t make the law. They administer it with varying degrees of luck but at least aim for general integrity – which also means they’re not about to be bought off by the music industry as suggested in another comment.
      Courts in Denmark give more leeway to parody than US courts, so I’m quite certain the mayors will try to fight Universal’s claim. To me, it smells as if Universal in the US sent an edict to their Danish employees to sue without considering local law – perhaps to prove a point in the US? (Wild guess, here).

      Now, if the Mayors could be jailed for making extreme fools of themselves, that’d be another thing…  

      1. I know mayors don’t write the law, but they usually belong to political parties and often are career politicians; at the very least, they go to party conferences and meetings and provide valued feedback on policies. They also move real money, something that political parties value dearly.

  2. Seriously what is wrong with people in the Music Business?, No I mean really? WTF is with them, are they a breed apart or something ?

    1. It’s not people in the Music Business; it’s people in the Music Distribution and Control Business.

      1. “Music Protection business” sounds more… apt. 

        “It’d be a tragedy if something should happen to that electoral campaign of yours, Mayor. Denmark is a terrible neighbourhood. You clearly need somebody to protect you from your own… music taste.”

  3. What if somebody should.. destroy their political careers? They should pay Universal for some “insurance” to prevent their possible upcoming political demise.

  4. Since the IP owners have been so busy teaching us that IP is really property, eminent domain must apply. Universal should consider their IP seized.

  5. Great lesson in the utter stupidity of current copyright laws.

    Mistake not being a defense against infringement, combined with the rights holder not needing to show actual damages, pretty much guarantees bullshit like this.  As long as there’s no need for any kind of connection between the right violated, the harm done, and the damages owed — as is there is with, you know, just about every other cause of action in existence — this kind of story won’t go away.

    It’s as if your neighbor is automatically entitled to ten thousand dollars for trespass because you stepped on the corner of his front lawn for a moment to retrieve your morning newspaper.  There’s no sense to it, and there’s certainly no justice to it.

  6. You’d think that they’d like people doing something that created more of a buzz about their product. Why don’t they see parodies like this as guerrilla marketing that they didn’t have to pay for? 

  7. The bad part is you just know $42,000 is just a skosh less than the cost of defending the suit. It’s the Prenda Law tactic, and it’s not even sneaky.

    The good part is knowing that the full amount will be going to the poor, oppressed artist whose work was so viciously stolen. Thank God somebody is looking out for the artists.

    1.  Bonus points if this can end up in front of Judge Otis D. Wright who dealt Prenda their extinction level(ing) event.  This one judge who isn’t for sale.

      1. You know, that’s pretty unlikely. Since the guys being threatened are in Denmark.

        I’m going to guess Danish copyright law is less insane than US copyright law (because almost anything is).  It’ll be interesting to see whether the mayors get legal advice to pay up, negotiate a lower payment subject to conditions, or just tell Universal to fuck off.

  8. What about just basic DMCA safe harbor rules? Or do those not apply since the people being sued aren’t American?

  9. This is not some teenager downloading for his own use. These are ignorant bozo campaign managers looking around and seeing a “meme” to climb aboard. Amateur, unscrupulous, narcissistic bozo gets caught stepping all over someone else’s rights. Not a grid snap situation.

  10. Psy, last years meme. I guess this is the only way Universal think they will see more money out of him. Reprehensible in any case.

  11. Parody is generally protected by fair use.

    To answer your question, yes, I think there are times when musical property should be protected. If I am an unknown musician and I record a song that few people hear, and a big-name singer steals it and pretends it’s his, I think that’s clearly wrong. In this case, he’s specifically deceiving the public about the origins of the song, and is taking money for it that might otherwise have gone to me.

    In what way are the Danish mayors taking money for this song that would otherwise have gone to Psy? In what way is Psy or his distributers harmed by this parody?

    1. Thank you for your sane response. I do think this case is closer to the line than most. Since it was before an election, the mayors used the video as a political ad and people who create political ads should get paid. In that case it’s not simply a parody, they are using the song to make money for themselves.

  12. I’d say that the new version with generic latin music dubbed over what was originally Gangnam Style may be even better.

  13. Well that isn’t too bad. When I was walking down the street and humming a song, some universal employee heard me and charged me 4 million, saying it was “Public Exhibition”.

    I think governments need to reign in music companies.

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