city view of where vanilla ice ripped off under pressure by david bowie and queen

How David Bowie & Queen Protected Their Famous Collaboration

Jan 31, 2024

If you’re at all knowledgeable about music or pop culture, you probably know about “Under Pressure,” the 1981 hit collaboration between rock legends Queen and David Bowie. You might also know the 1990 hip hop bop, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. But have you ever noticed the similarity between these two songs?

Whether it’s occurred to you before or not, it certainly occurred to Freddy Mercury when he heard the latter song in 1990. He made a call to Queen’s manager, and Queen and David Bowie embarked on an enforcement of their IP that ended with a successful settlement and both artists of Under Pressure receiving creative credit for “Ice Ice Baby.”

Let’s talk about this famous copyright case and what you can learn from it.

Queen and David Bowie vs. Vanilla Ice

In 1981, Queen released a new single called “Under Pressure” featuring David Bowie and Annie Lennox. With so many musical geniuses featured on the track, it quickly became a hit. It was then featured on the 1982 Queen Album, Hot Space.

But the music world moves quickly, and by 1990, “Under Pressure” was not getting as much radio play on contemporary stations. That’s why Freddie Mercury was surprised when he heard “Ice Ice Baby” play while eating his breakfast. His assistant, Peter “Phoebe” Freestone, recalled that he seemed more bemused than angry about the song. It quickly became apparent to Mercury that the song was a “blatant ripoff” of “Under Pressure.” 

While Mercury might not have reacted angrily about the song, he did at least recognize that Vanilla Ice was profiting off of his IP. He reached out to the band’s manager, Jim Beach, who took it from there, notifying their attorneys and eventually reaching out to Vanilla Ice.

The case was eventually settled out of court. There was no denying that Vanilla Ice had sampled “Under Pressure” in his track, so there wasn’t much of a case. Vanilla Ice bought the rights to “Under Pressure” and gave Queen, as well as David Bowie, creative credits for “Ice Ice Baby.” 

What To Learn From the Case

Vanilla Ice became as well known for his copyright infringement of Queen as he was for “Ice Ice Baby” as a song. Choosing to sample a track that he didn’t have the legal right to use ended up having an impact on his career that lasted far beyond the settlement with Queen and David Bowie, showing that copyright infringement doesn’t pay. But Queen wouldn’t have been able to enforce their copyright had they not registered the copyright and had Jim Beach not taken quick action to get their lawyer involved in the case. 

Too many musical artists and other creatives believe that copyright registration is optional, something to do only if you’re “paranoid.” But had Queen not registered their copyright, Vanilla Ice could have profited off of “Under Pressure” in untold ways, without Queen ever getting the credit for it. If you want to enforce your copyright, a copyright registration is a must.

Need to register your copyright or take other steps to protect your IP? Garcia-Zamor has you covered. Contact us today or schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help you enforce your intellectual property.