Bart Baker has made several of the most popular music video parodies on YouTube, but if you want to check out his take on Lorde's smash hit "Royals," you're out of luck. That's because YouTube has taken the video down after receiving a complaint from SONGS Music Publishing, the company behind "Royals." Here's Bart's recent vlog with an update on the latest, and his reaction to having his video pulled (and a strike added to his YouTube account.)
It's certainly not the first time YouTube has pulled a video after receiving a copyright complaint. It happens all day, every day. But typically, these are cases of overt song theft - either simply reposting someone else's music to a YouTube channel, or using a previously-recorded song as background music without permission. By virtue of being a parody, using similar music but changing the words in an attempt to humorously mock the original song and video, Bart's video (which we included in our round-up of YouTube's Best Royals Parodies) would usually be considered "fair use." In other words: It's not legal to take someone else's song and just re-use it, but it is legal to use elements of someone's work in order to comment on that work.
Obviously, there are First Amendment issues at play here, and as Bart mentions in the video, the outcome of this situation could have a huge impact on the freedom of speech of content creators. If nothing else, the "chilling effect" of making YouTubers worried about having videos pulled will, over time, mean less of these videos get made and released. In his vlog, Bart suggests some action fans can take to support his "Royals" video and the right of YouTubers to make these kinds of pop culture parodies. He's asking everyone to send a tweet to @bartbaker and @lordemusic with the hashtag #SaveBartsLordeParody.
The hope is that, if the Bart-heads make enough noise, Lorde and Songs will have no choice but to reinstate the video. (He also invites Lorde to come out to LA and star in one of his future parodies. You stay classy, Bart Baker!)
Lon Harris wrote and contributed to this post.