The Case of the Singing Barbie


Pop band Aqua was sued by Mattel Toys for their song I am a Barbie Girl

Mattel: The song is an insult to our Barbie Doll, a misuse of a great product.
Aqua: So?
Court: Parties, just chill. There's no infringement of copyright / trademark. “Barbie” is not just a toy but a cultural icon and the song is a parody.
Mattel: Hmmm! This time, we'll profit from the song! Let's use it for this commercial…after making the lyrics pro-Barbie of course!


Will parody of a work be copyright infringement? Under fair use doctrine, parodies are permitted if they are intended to criticise or comment upon the copyrighted work.

Can a title be used even if it has a trademark? A title can be used if the words enter the public discourse and become part of our vocabulary.

Spotlight on Theatre:

If your work is going to be a clear comment or criticism of the copyrighted work, go right ahead! The criticism may be the main theme of the play or appear in a song or a scene or a dance.

Best Practices or Quick, Tell Me How to Avoid Conflict!

Feel free to criticize or parody a work. But be careful that you don’t defame somebody. No ownership can be claimed over a word that becomes part of common vocabulary.


United States Court of Appeals -Mattel, Inc. Vs. MCA Records, Inc. and Universal Music International To read the full text of the above judgement, follow the link.

Also read Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, 1957