‘Girl From Ipanema’ Can Be Parodied to Sell Veggies: Brazil Court

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By Ed Taylor

The Girl From Ipanema can sell collard greens, and her copyright holder can’t stop her, a Brazilian court has ruled.

The Brazil unit of Universal Music Group came out on the losing end of a copyright infringement lawsuit over the 1960s pop classic “The Girl from Ipanema.” The South American country’s Superior Court of Justice ruled Sept. 12 that a Brazilian fruit and vegetable company, Hortigil Hortifruti S.A., can continue to run ads containing parodied words from the lyrics of one of Brazil’s most iconic songs.

MGB Brasil Ltda, which holds 50 percent of the rights to the song, sued Hortigil after the opening part of the song in Hortigil’s ad was changed from “Look, such a sight, so beautiful, so filled with grace” to “Look, such collard greens, so beautiful, so filled with grace.” The ad was posted online and in a printed publication in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Universal, a subsidiary of French media conglomerate Vivendi SA, argued that Brazilian law permits parodies but not for commercial purposes. The company demanded that the advertising be banned and sought damages. But the Superior Court of Justice ruled that there’s no restriction on commercial parodies in Brazilian legislation.

Justice Villas Boas Cueva, writing for the majority of the country’s second highest appeals court, said Brazil’s copyright law prohibits depreciative or offensive parodies of original works, but doesn’t require that parodies be non-commercial.

“Therefore, we understand that to prohibit parodies in advertising campaigns only because the work possesses some commercial purpose would negate the creative nature of the campaign, inhibiting the freedom to create and censuring humor,” he wrote.

The campaign didn’t offend the original song and was clearly meant to be “irreverent and humorous,” Cueva said. He noted that the advertisement didn’t contain the melody of the song but only part of its lyrics.

The court said its decision was specific to the facts of the case and didn’t necessarily set a precedent. “The limit separating parody from copyright violation is tenuous and is strictly related to the factual circumstances of each case,” the court said.

MGB Brasil didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by Bloomberg Law.

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