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Does Weird Al pay out royalties for his songs?

To continue our conversation from last week, we wanted to talk once more about Weird Al Yankovic rise to success by using the melody of another singer's to create his own works of art. As frequent readers of our blog may remember, last week we talked about fair use, which allows Yankovic to write and produce parodies of other songs without fear of copyright infringement.

This week we wanted to continue the conversation by talking about something we're sure a large number of people across the nation have probably wondered at one time or another and that is: does Weird Al pay out royalties for his songs? By looking at how one royalty payment company handles this part of the music industry, we hope to answer the question for our Los Angeles readers in this week's post.

According to the Broadcast Music Inc., which is a company that handles the distribution of royalties to artists, parody songs such as Yankovic's are subject to the rules that govern royalty payments. This means that Yankovic, like any other artist in the industry, would need to sign a carefully drafted contract that would not only allow him to receive royalties if his version of a song is used but also the original artist who lent their creativity to make Yankovic's version possible.

This is something he does, his lawyer explains, because he not only wants his cut of the royalties but his songwriter credit as well.

So while the fair use section of U.S. Copyright Law allows him to parody another artist's song with little fear of legal redress for failing to obtain a copyright license beforehand, the fair use law does not necessarily exempt him from having to pay royalties.

According to Weird Al's lawyer, Yankovic's success in the music industry has allowed him to "bargain for a lucrative share in the copyright of the parody version […]," meaning he is able to negotiate better contracts with other artists that will be beneficial for both artists.

Sources: Mental Floss, "How Do Royalties Work for "Weird Al" Songs?" Nick Greene, July 25, 2014

Broadcast Music Inc., "General Royalty Information," Accessed Nov. 4, 2014

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