Music publisher BMG is suing a toy manufacturer for promoting a brand of “Unicorn Poop” toys by releasing a song called “My Poops” — a scatological parody of the tune of Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the publisher accused toymaker MGA Entertainment of infringing copyright on the band’s 2005 hit, which peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 and totaled 36 weeks in spent on the charts.
Released to promote MGA’s Poopsie Slime Surprise toys – unicorns releasing glittery “Unicorn Poop” slime – the song in question features similar musical elements to the original but with witty lyrics like “Whatcha gonna do with all that poop, all that poop”.
In addition to copying key musical elements, BMG says MGA’s song features a lead singer who “sounds a lot like” Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie.
“Music, especially a hit song like ‘My Humps,’ adds tremendous value when incorporated into a product or used in a video ad because it increases consumer discoverability, engagement and attention to the product,” BMG wrote in his lawsuit. “The infringing work is so substantially similar to ‘My Humps’ that it is apparent that the infringing work was intentionally copied.”
MGA’s song was released as a music video on YouTube, but BMG claims the copycat song has also been incorporated into actual products. A sticker on the Poopsie Slime Surprise packets led users to the video, the publisher says, and the actual dolls play a snippet of the song when a “heart-shaped belly button” is pressed.
“Defendant sold the Dancing Unicorn Toys, which contain the infringing work, around the world and generated substantial revenue,” BMG’s attorneys wrote. “The Poopsie Slime Surprise product line brought the defendant tens of millions in revenue.”
Musically, BMG says that MGA’s song stole a number of key elements, including the melody, bassline, rhyme scheme, chord progression, cadence, and others, and that the “My Poops” singer “uses similar delivery and vocal inflection.” as used by Fergie.” It also states that the song’s name is “an obvious play” on the original’s name.
Neither BMG nor MGA immediately responded to requests for comment on Friday.
The new lawsuit sets the stage for a high-profile dispute over parody songs — a complex area of federal copyright law.
Fair use law expressly empowers people to parody existing copyrighted works, and one of the most landmark copyright decisions by the US Supreme Court held that 2 Live Crew was legally permitted to make a crude parody of Roy Orbison’s rock ballad “Oh, Pretty.” woman” without paying royalties. But the music industry’s leading parodist, “Weird Al” Yankovic, volunteers to license all the songs he parodies. And the legal analysis is undoubtedly more difficult when a parody song is used for purely commercial advertising or as part of an actual consumer product, rather than just as a new song.
In a more recent case, the Beastie Boys faced off with a toy company called GoldieBlox, which released a viral parody of the group’s 1987 song “Girls” to promote their engineering and construction toys for girls. After the band threatened copyright infringement, GoldieBlox argued fair use — saying it aimed to criticize the “highly sexist” message of the original Beastie Boys track and “promote the company’s goal of breaking down gender stereotypes.”
But six months later, GoldieBlox agreed to a settlement in which it apologized to the Beastie Boys and agreed to donate a portion of its earnings to charities of the band’s choice.
Read BMG’s entire lawsuit here: