Back when I was still in my in-house job, I was often asked to review internal “pep-rally” style programs. Often these programs included the playing of popular or well-known music. That part was easy. We could check and see if a song was covered in our annual license with a music rights company (such as ASCAP).
However, equally often, they wanted to create what they called a “parody”. They wanted to take the music from a well-known song and change the words to make it relevant to their internal team’s meeting. I almost always advised against it. They would swear that the risk is low. It is only an internal program. They’re not using it in advertising, etc. I would still always advise against it. Usually, however, they would move forward with the program.
Well, to those who resented getting “legal” involved and those who think that there is no chance of the program getting out to the public, here’s a lesson for you.
Essentially, Bank of America employees took U2′s “One” music and rewrote the lyrics to tout the merger/take over of MBNA by/with Bank of America. You can see a video of the performance at http://www.stereogum.com/archives/003926.html (as well as a transcript of the re-written lyrics).
Univeral’s Music division has a real problem with this. You can also read the C&D letter from Universal at http://www.stereogum.com/archives/003926.html – in the comments section.
So, those those in-house employees who believe that their internal programs will never escape, think about this story. Although, in my opinion, Universal or U2 would likely not receive much in the way of actual damages, consider the embarrassment to you and the company for which you work.