The YouTube video, Disney Medley II – AJ Rafael & Todrick Hall, is on the edge of copyright infringement. One can argue fair use of copyrighted material if the content is noncommercial, educational, reasonably different from the purpose of the original content, and attributed to the original copyright holders. This video is barely (if at all) under the protection of fair use, and yet YouTube has left it up. The video (posted below) contains two popular YouTube singers, AJ Rafael and Todrick Hall, singing a medley of famous Disney songs. Accompanying the singers are two images, one of a scene from a Disney movie and the other of the two singers’ attempt to replicate that image. Surprisingly, the video does not attribute the songs to their rightful composers and barely attributes the other copyrighted material to Disney. Their only attribution come in the form of their title and description box mentioning Disney’s name and the Walt Disney quote placed at the beginning of the video. Yet, the aspects of the video that truly push copyright boundaries are the way the video answers the fair use question “… did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?” The copyrighted Disney music in addition to pictures of scenes in the corresponding films, target Disney fans; therefore, the video views benefit from the original copyrighted material’s popularity and the nostalgia it provokes. YouTubers are paid based on video views, so fact that the two singers benefit economically from this video also makes their case for fair use a difficult one.
Even though the content is still Disney music, one could argue that the video is transformative. The way the songs are sung vary enough to where the original songs can be recognized, but the nuances make it distinct. These Disney songs originally appeared in Disney movies as a means to enhance the storyline; in this video, the songs are used as pure entertainment and a way for the two singers to display their composition and vocal skills. The video also changes the accompanying images’ purpose. The images from the Disney films are not particularly humorous ones; however, AJ and Todrick’s replication take that tone. They use common-day props such as brooms and t-shirts to transform themselves into Disney characters; and most of the time one of them is dressed as a female character. Through this overall fun-loving and humorous tone, the meaning of some of the songs, such as “Beauty and the Beast,” change, becoming more lighthearted. Therefore, they have somewhat changed the purpose of the songs and images. In addition, the length of each song used is less than fifty seconds. If a viewer wants to hear Disney songs, they would most likely buy the full song instead of listening to a fifty-second cover. Moreover, no one is going to stop watching Disney films or buy Disney related merchandise because they can hear a cover of the songs online. The video does not take anything away from Disney and the profits they make. Perhaps this video is not the best candidate for a fair use claim or example of a remix video due to the economic benefits gained by the YouTubers, the lack of a major change in purpose, the lack of attribution to the original copyright holders, and the lack of change in the target audience. However, the ever so slight transformative nature of their musical arrangement and overall tone, in addition to their YouTube popularity, will protect the YouTubers and their video.
Rafael, AJ. “Medley II – AJ Rafael & Todrick Hall.” Youtube. Youtube, 12 April 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
Central for Social Media. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video. AUSOC, 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.