Sony accuses Rev. Phelps of copyright violation for online video parody

This week, Sony/ATC Music Publishing in New York City wrote to Rev. Fred Phelps and his church group, known for picketing soldiers’ funerals across the nation, telling them to stop what it claimed was “unauthorized use” of the song “Holding Out for a Hero,” featured in the 1984 film “Footloose.” Sony accused Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of violating copyright laws with their online video parody, “There Are No Heroes.”

The video highlights the church’s controversial stance against homosexuality in connection with the belief that soldiers’ deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serve as God’s punishment for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality.

Fred Phelps’ daughter and the church’s attorney said the group will continue hosting its video of the song on its Web site. She maintains that Sony “said in their letter that it is a parody, but they lost their perspective. They hate these words. We said plainly there are no heroes and that is what the song is about. Under the fair use doctrine, this is proper for us to do.”

Phelps responded to the letter from Peter Brodsky, Sony’s executive vice president for business and legal affairs, this past Friday, claiming that Westboro’s use of the song is exempt from copyright laws because the video is a parody.

This is the second time in recent years that a music company has accused Phelps and his church of copyright infringement. Last year, Warner/Chappel Music Inc. in Los Angeles viewed the group’s parody of “God Hates the World,” to the tune of “We are the World” as a violation of its copyright.

Find this article in Business Week. Further details on this story and a link to the “There Are No Heroes” video can be found here.