One of the panels Universal removed from This Charming Charlie, via Lauren LoPrete.
It’s not everyday the underdog wins in the big bad world of online copyright spats. But Lauren LoPrete and her Tumblr, which mashes up Peanuts comics with Smiths lyrics, has done just that—with a little help from her lawyer, of course.
Three weeks ago, Universal (UMPG) removed a few of LoPrete’s panels from her Tumblr claiming copyright infringement, on grounds that she did not have permission to use snippets of select Smiths lyrics on her Peanuts mashup panels. After writing a rather sad-sounding post about the media-darling Tumblr being “over” due to the takedowns, LoPrete ended up attracting press and lawyers willing to take the case pro bono. Overwhelmed by the support, LoPrete changed her mind, lawyered up and filed counterclaim on the grounds of “fair use,” as her work transforms the original content—or in some cases, parodies The Smiths' crooning angst by pairing it with Peanuts comics.
Either way, the lawyers were unanimous in agreeing her creations constituted fair use and LoPrete’s fight ended up attracting more press and more supporters, including Morrissey himself.
This Sunday, the quaffed frontman wrote on the unofficial Morrissey fansite that he had “not been consulted over any takedown request to remove the Tumblr blog named 'This Charming Charlie'” and he “is delighted and flattered by the Peanuts comic strip with its use of Morrissey-Smiths lyrics, and he hopes that the strips remain.” So no, Morrissey is not a “fun vampire.”
In an email, LoPrete wrote she is “deeply honored that Morrissey spoke out on behalf of This Charming Charlie”. She added: “Morrissey is not a stranger to fair use, and it was my extreme respect for his appropriation of words and images that led to this project in the first place.”
Morrissey jointly owns the rights to the lyrics Universal was claiming copyright over, and his “generous approval removes any litigation threat” wrote LoPrete’s lawyer Dan Booth in a victory letter sent to Universal on Monday, shown to Motherboard by LoPrete.
Universal had two weeks to file a suit once they received LoPrete’s counter-claims, but they dropped the pursuit on September 25, as a Universal spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. And on Monday night, in keeping with Tumblr’s policies, the panels that were removed by Universal started to be restored on LoPrete’s Tumblr. A happy ending for all.
Theorizing on the whole ordeal, LoPrete wrote she hopes her Tumblr will “set a precedent for copyright laws in the future, and encourage others to express themselves and enrich our culture through free speech, parody and social critique.”
Taking another look at the 15-year-old copyright law for online materials wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.