top of page
  • Robert

Fair use - the story of both a certain letter and number

Something totally different I stumbled across is a law suit between the bands U2 and Negativland.

Disclaimer: The following discussion of this topic does not intend infringing any trademarks, copyrights or other rights, but is considered fair use of publicly available information.

In 1992, Negativland released a book with CD called The Letter U and the Numeral 2. It describes all aspects of their earlier conflict with U2 following Negativland's release of their EP "U2" (EP not standing for European Patent, but for Extended Play meaning longer than a single but shorter than an album).


The book was made the subject of another suit directed against publishing plaintiff's detailed information shared in the original law suit over the use of U2. In 1995, Negativland released a new version of the book, now called Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2 against publication of which no suit was filed and which is still available for purchase today.


Despite plaintiff's efforts to avoid publication of certain non-public information, the contrary was achieved. This backfiring is also known as the Streisand effect, named after Barbra Streisand who in 2003 sued a photographer for violating her privacy publishing a picture of Ms. Streisand's property. Ultimately, this suit resulted in an even higher publicity of this picture (a handful of views before the suit vs. more than 400,000 views after).

What does this story have to do with the subject of this Blog?


Well, I only discovered this interesting piece of legal history by searching for lyrics comprising IP-related terms, here "prior art". The above-mentioned Negativland CD contains a track called "Only a sample". A pertinent part of the lyrics reads:

And if the courts say that a work of art can have no basis in a prior work of art, that would be a very damaging and destructive statement in relationship to the future of art.

Other parts heavily criticize the US copyright law with its root back in the 18th century.

Listen to the complete CD here (relevant track "only a sample" here) and find the complete "lyrics" here.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page