Flashback: Will Smith and Freddy Krueger Battle In Court
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise reached the peak of its popularity in the summer of 1988. It had been less than four years since the original film reached multiplexes, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was slated to open on August 19th, 1988 and anticipation was very high. It would ultimately become the highest-grossing film of the original series. A few months earlier, the Fat Boys got Freddy Krueger fans geared up for the movie with their single “Are You Ready for Freddy,” which featured guest vocals by Robert Englund himself. Sample lyric: “Freddy Krueger’s the name/You know my game/Elm Street’s the place/You got the time/Listen to this/You’ll bust a rhyme.”
The Fat Boys worked with the studio behind a Nightmare on Elm Street and were legally granted the right to use the characters in exchange for a portion of the profits. The song also played over the end credits of the movie. Meanwhile, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had their own Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired song called “A Nightmare on My Street.” According to the film studio, there was talk about getting the song officially authorized, but the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement. That didn’t stop DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince from releasing the track on their new LP He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, where it proved to be much more popular than the Fat Boys song.
They even shot a video for it and MTV aired it a handful of times before New Line filed a lawsuit, claiming copyright infringement. “New Line presented evidence that it would suffer irreparable harm by the effect the A Nightmare on My Street video is likely to have on the sales of the Fat Boys song,” reads an inadvertently hilarious legal document from the time. “Testimony established that the songs promoted by the two videos are in direct competition in the rap music market. Certainly, with two competing videos in the music marketplace, each video will get less promotional time on MTV.”
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s legal team tried to argue the song was a parody and subsequently protected by fair use laws. “The work does not appear to make a critical comment or statement about Nightmare I reflecting a unique perspective,” the court wrote. “In fact, the video does not appear even to be making fun of the movies themselves. Rather, the video serves solely an entertainment and promotional function for Zomba’s song.”
The suit was ultimately settled out of court and all copies of the video were destroyed. They did a pretty good job because, even 10 years into the age of YouTube, there doesn’t seem to be a single copy floating around. That hasn’t stopped Freddy fans from making their own though. Here’s the most popular one, which is packed with scenes from the Nightmare movies. And if there’s anyone out there that regularly taped MTV in 1988, go through your archives and see if you have the actual “Nightmare on My Street” video. The Internet would love to see it.