A church known nationally for picketing soldiers’ funerals is being accused by a music company of violating copyright laws with an Internet video parody of the 1980s song, “We Are the World.”
An attorney for Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church said Thursday the parody, “God Hates the World,” is protected under First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religious expression. She said the church would continue to post the video on its Web site.
Westboro Baptist pastor, the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., has garnered national attention in a campaign against homosexuality.
The church contends that soldiers’ deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are God’s punishment for a tolerance of homosexuality in the United States.
“It’s all our effort to deliver a faithful message to this generation,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, church attorney and daughter of the pastor.
But Warner/Chappel Music Inc. of Los Angeles said the video infringes on its copyright to “We Are the World.” The song raised money for famine relief the video featured some of American music’s biggest stars, including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen.
“According to our records, no request has been made to use the Composition, no authorization has been granted nor has any license been issued for the use of the Composition on the Web site,” Kelly Isenberg, the company’s director of legal and business affairs wrote in a May 8 letter to the church.
Isenberg wasn’t available for comment in her Los Angeles office and didn’t return a telephone message from The Associated Press.
The parody follows the “We Are the World” video’s format of showing a group of singers – Westboro Baptist members – in front of a microphone. The rewritten lyrics include: “You are all a part of the devil’s family and the truth, you’re all headed straight to hell!”
Near the end of the video, a man is seen waving an upside-down Canadian flag.
Westboro Baptist’s picketing of soldiers’ funerals led the U.S. Congress and 34 states, including Kansas, to enact laws attempting to restrict such protests.
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