Feuding Over ‘Friday’

Rebecca Black’s video of “Friday,” which has now been seen over 82 million times on YouTube, has spawned a few parodies, as well as dozens and dozens of cover versions, including one performed recently by late night TV hosts Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” and Jimmy Fallon of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Miley Cyrus | Rebecca Black

It has also drawn impressive praises from former “American Idol” panelist-turned-creator, producer and lead judge for “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell, as well as caused Miley Cyrus to do a 180, going from hating to liking Rebecca so much that she, too, wants to do her own cover version of “Friday”.

What’s even more amazing about Rebecca Black and “Friday” is how radio, the time-honored way of breaking a new song, was not used as much as the viral spreading of that video via YouTube, with a little help from mainstream TV airplay.

Along with that success, “Friday” has generated its share of controversy, some of it based on the way Rebecca sang the song, and some based on how ridiculous the lyrics are perceived to be. But all that pales by comparison to a deeper controversy that has developed behind the song itself, and it’s one that may have ended up setting the song’s co-writers against each other.

Back on April 1, 2011, no fooling, Rolling Stone reported about a letter written by a lawyer who represents Rebecca and her mother, Georgina Kelly, that accused the song’s producers and composers, Ark Music Factory, of copyright infringement and unlawful exploitation of property rights. Because “Friday” and Rebecca have been all over the Internet, on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Ark’s website, and because Ark had allegedly advertised Rebecca as a signed artist, which she wasn’t at the time, that fell under the exploitation alleged in the letter.

As for the copyright infringement, while Ark’s co-owners, Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jey, are credited with composing “Friday,” what’s in dispute had to do with the master recordings of both the song and its accompanying video, which Georgina, the mom, paid Ark $4000 [twice what was originally and widely reported] to have Ark produce for Rebecca, in return for which, according to the lawyer’s letter as mentioned in the story, Rebecca would, based on her mother’s signature, own said masters.

Even though, as the article reports, Rebecca did eventually get her master recordings back from Ark, the article mentions how Clarence and Patrice, the co-writers and Ark co-owners, have kind of disassociated themselves from each other’s end of the company, as well as Clarence telling Rolling Stone that he cut Rebecca and her mother in for 10% of the publishing rights to “Friday” despite not contributing any lyrics, even though he says Ark should own the publishing rights.

And therein lies a confusing set of circumstances.  ou got Ark Music Factory owning the publishing rights to “Friday” because its owners wrote the lyrics, while Rebecca, the person who sang the song, owns the song’s audio and video master recordings.

It’s the kind of situation that provides a lesson in the benefits of creativity and independence.  As I previously wrote, Rebecca is going to have to learn that owning the songs you write and record matters as much as, and probably more than, just writing and recording those songs, and that’s in addition to social networking and other marketing platforms.

As it stands now, Rebecca has reportedly signed a management deal that could be parlayed into something with a major label. A short-term solution, some would think, but one that could end up having the long-term consequence of her probably not benefiting from something she won’t own. In a world where content is king, independence and ownership of that content should be queen.

With all that Rebecca has gone through lately, both in front of and behind the scenes, do you think she should be more careful of what she’s dealing with?

Watch Rebecca Black Video for ‘Friday’

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