Behold, one of the greatest things on the internet: the “This Charming Charlie” Tumblr, where artist Lauren LoPrete has put lyrics from Smiths and Morrissey songs into the conversation bubbles in “Peanuts” strips. I’m a little late to the party here as this is a few years old, but one of the neatest things about the internet is that there’s always a big chunk of the population seeing cool stuff for the first time.
Apparently, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr alleged “copyright infringement” a few years ago. Morrissey was “delighted and flattered.” Apparently, it was decided that the project fell under fair use rules. And good thing, too: we’d be a poorer world without This Charming Charlie.
So is the artist stealing from Marr and Morrissey with her use of their copyrighted works? The law apparently says “no,” and if anything she’s giving them $0 advertising and introducing their work to a new generation. I’m not part of that “new generation” (I grew up in the 80s and 90s), but I’m listening to the Smiths on Spotify right now. I probably wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the Tumblr.
There’s also an important lesson here about economic growth. There will always be new ways to combine existing information and ideas in such a way as to create something new, and with most of our material needs met—indeed, we’re over-fed, over-clothed, and over-sheltered if anything—we have the luxury of looking for output like This Charming Charlie.