Chicken Soup for the Soul. What a series. I remember being a kid in elementary school and how they were marketed as the deep poetry of our time. At least, when I read Chicken Soup for the Child’s Soul back in fourth grade, that’s what I was told. I remember virtually nothing about it, but it seemed like it would’ve been touching. Me, I’ve got a cankerous, calloused soul whose warmth is only awakened by small dogs in sweaters and gas station coffee. But enough about me.
If you can go so far back in your memory, venture with me to A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Therein lies a poem by Ohio native Stanley Gerbhardt titled But You Didn’t, a poem featuring a really crappy father-son relationship which centers around neglect. Doesn’t that sound familiar, dad? Anyway, this poem is poem and its author are raising cane nowadays. It isn’t because Stanley Gerbhardt isn’t demanding more fame or anything, but it is because of, you named it, copyright infringement. But at whose hands? Drum roll please…
ICP’s very own Violent J! *applause*
In a 2007 video uploaded to YouTube, which you can watch here, Violent J spits fire on the mic in the form of his poem. This poem which he delivers apparently contains copyrighted material from But You Didn’t. Thusly, Mr. Gerbhardt is suing Violent J for copyright infringement. Simple setup really.
Now, here’s a thing about me. I’m an unbiased third party. My only connection to the Chicken Soup series is that one book I read in fourth grade, was not a fan. My only knowledge of Insane Clown Posse comes from this video. So, I’ve got some opinions as an outsider.
To me, I can’t help but smell something a little fishy. First off, the poem But You Didn’t was copyrighted in 1993. The video in question was published in 2007, a full 14 years later. The video featuring Violent J’s poem with the most views clock in at just under 22,000. Plus, if we’ve learned anything from the view from 214 in 2016, it is that YouTube’s streaming royalties are godawful, so there is no way on God’s green earth that ICP is making any money from this. Once every hundred years, they make a dollar maximum off this unofficial recording, most of its publishing being done by ICP fans.
However, if this material is indeed stolen, ICP isn’t out of the water. Mostly because of their fans. Juggalos are the ones uploading this and worshipping this. And have you read their YouTube comments? I don’t think I’d want a Juggalo lawyer, personally.
But then, if you try to pin the blame on Juggalos, how can one poet sue an entire fandom? My allergies may be giving me a run for my money, but I do smell something fishy.
What is to come of this? I really don’t see this case going anywhere. I’m all about artists’ rights, have been since the day I exited mother’s uterus, but I also have a great appreciation of common sense. And common sense tells me that this “infringement” really just falls under fair use. ICP is not making money off of this. Violent J was already more famous than Stanley Gerbhardt before his poem was uploaded unawares. ICP may scare some small children, but they are not cornering the poetry market by any means, nor are they detracting from Gerbhardt’s career in foul play. Really, to me, this just sounds like that one Pat Benatar lawsuit over similar-sounding words and scalar motion in the chorus.
As for the future, this is probably just one drop in the bucket. I highly doubt hellfire will be raised either way over the verdict of this case. I am only vaguely familiar with both of these parties. They aren’t necessarily hot commodities on the mainstream market right now, #sorrynotsorry. I really think this poet is just trying to pee on Violent J, metaphorically of course, and regain some of his previous “fame,” trying to reach his grubby little fingers into the Juggalo piggy bank. Will we see more cases like this? Probably. Desperate times call for desperate measures. *cue Trump administration* *enter seventeen marches on Washington stage right*
If you’d like to read the article that prompted this post AND the official lawsuit against Violent J, click here.
Once again, this has been the view from 214.