Patent Song

The other day I saw this interview on TV where a guy complained about people (read: cheezy rappers) making covers of songs he’d written. The way I understood it, anyone can cover any song as long as they pay royalties to the writer/composer.

Can you get a patent on a song?

If not, does that mean it’s possible to make a commercial where they sing “Whenever there is fun there’s always Crappy-Generic-Brand-cola” legally?

For those of you who were expecting something else:

The Patent Song - (To the tune of Camptown Races)

Einsten was a patent clerk, doo-dah! doo-dah!
Wrote his theory after work, Oh! doo-dah day!
Patenting all night! Patenting aw forget it…

“No! You can’t take my medicine, I need every brain cell blazing to outwit my invisible enemies!”


For a somewhat more complete answer, check what the master has said.

Then why hasn’t Weird Al recorded any Prince (or whoever the HELL he is these days) songs?

I know Prince (or whover the HELL he is these days) doesn’t like Al and refuses to give permission.

Weird Al prefers to get permission from the original artists before he does his parodys. (If for no other reason than he has to pay less in royalties that way.)

There was a bit of a fuss a few years back when Weird Al did Amish Paradise as a cover of Coolio’s Gangsa Paradise. Weird Al asked for permission and thought he got it, but Coolio later said he never gave permission to cover the song. Amish Paradise was still released.

So, he could do it but chooses not to.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

The Supreme Court ruled a few years ago (some time after Cecil’s column) that you didn’t need to ask permission. The case was something like Acuff-Rose vs. 2 Live Crew; the music publishers of “Pretty Woman” didn’t like the idea that the rappers took the song without permission. The court ruled for 2 Live Crew and put and end to the issue.

“East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Marx

Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.

According to Weird Al’s website,, he gets permission to do parodies because he prefers to maintain a professional relationship with other artists. I think he should do a ripping, no-holds-barred parody of Prince just to tweak his arrogance and bad attitude.

But that’s just me.

OTOH, I wonder if Weird Al would give ME permission if I ever tried to parody one of HIS songs. Things that make you go HHHMMMMM…

I think the ultimate insult is that Prince hasn’t had a song WORTH parodying in how many years now?

Yer pal,

Goofball, Einstein was not the patent clerk, it was Edison.

Clerk or not, he did work in a patent office. Just chalk it up as artistic license, we songwriters can do that you know.

“No! You can’t take my medicine, I need every brain cell blazing to outwit my invisible enemies!”

You can sing a song and release it for sale, so long as the original writer and song has been published.

Why does it matter if Coolio doesn’t give permission for Weird Al to parody a Stevie Wonder song?


Once a song has been published and released for sale anyone can record it and put it out for sale. However they are first obligated to contact the original writer, writers or otherwise owners of the song to obtain a mechanical license. If the owner ignores them then they ( the owners) do not get paid a royalty. I think the going rate at present is 3.5 cents per copy sold to the owners of the original material.

I’m the best their is fats…even if you beat me I’m still the best.
paul newman in The Hustler

Oh and KentT a song in a commerical is a “work for hire” …in other words… the company that hired the writers of that song in that particular commerical owns the copyright for the first 25 years… then it reverts back to the original writers of the jingle. I assume ( I have never tried it) that if you ripped off that melody in the first 25 years the company would sue the ever lovin shit outa ya. After that the writers would be free to sue ya some more. I don’t think a song can ever be patented. only copyrited… :slight_smile: