Vanilla Ice on “Ice Ice Baby” vs. Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure” UPDATED

It’s become a ridiculous thing that people now think they can own whatever idea comes to their head and everything that may possibly be similar to it. In Lawrence Lessig’s book, The Future of Ideas, he states, “I would say to an 18-year-old artist, you’re totally free to do whatever you want. But–and then I would give him a long list of all the things that he couldn’t include in his movie because they would not be cleared, legally cleared. That he would have to pay for them. [So freedom? Here’s the freedom]: You’re totally free to make a movie in an empty room, with your two friends.” Basically the point he’s making is that you’re originality can only be based solely on what comes out of your head with practically no outside sources. He proclaims this is in a sarcastic manner because no one can form thoughts and ideas without even the slight influence of another person’s impact to start from. If humans did not build ideas off of each other then there is no way that we could have the comforts of life like we do now. As a human race we have a constant need to always improve and yearn for the next step in life, but without the ability to use the create minds of others in addition to our own we are handicapped.

An example where this ridiculous idea is portrayed is the case of Vanilla Ice vs. David Bowie/Freddie Mercury. The one hit wonder Vanilla Ice was sued for having a similar baseline in his song “Ice Ice Baby” and not crediting David Bowie and Queen from their song Under Pressure for it. Vanilla Ice, clearly not the most intelligent man to enter the world of hip hop, states in response to the lawsuit that,”We sampled it from them but it’s not the same bassline. It goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That’s the way theirs goes. Ours goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… DING… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That little bitty change — it’s not the same.” This case never made it to court, although rumor has it that the copyright owners of Under Pressure threatened an extreme legal suit but instead and settled with Vanilla for an undisclosed sum. The fact that people can now claim certain beats of music seems to be hilarious in my eyes. What happened to freedom of speech? I understand there has to be somewhat of a limit on copyright infringement so that people can correctly be recognized for the work they do but even Milton states in the Areopagitca that, “…When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditats, is industrious, and likely consults and conferrs with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be inform’d in what he writes, as well as any that writ before him.” In my personal opinion I don’t think Vanilla Ice meant to rip off David Bowie and Queen by using a tune similar to there’s, I believe he was simply inspired by it to produce a hit that he truly felt he could call his own.

Milton clearly states that other people and influences are importance when it comes to original ideas and such. On another note, Immanuel Kant also mentions in his piece “What is Enlightenment” that “It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself,” which coincides with the point that we need influences in our lives to procreate ideas in ourselves. In the instance of this lawsuit however, Kant would be on Vanilla Ice’s side because he was going into the unknown based off of someone else’s original thoughts. Kant believed that people should not be penalized with this kind of restriction because without this kind of progress, people will become lazy. In his time period they were trying to emerge from the dark ages, where monarchs and rulers basically told people what they could and couldn’t think or produce. Times are different now, people (at least in most countries) have free speech, are independent, and are completely capable with feeding off one another’s opinions without fear of never moving forward. After looking at all the opinions of these famous authors, I believe that that the solution is to take less restrictions on ownership rights to creativity and encourage people to never stop improving our world.

(Information on the case)




-Maddy Johnston


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