September 24, 2007

Promotion, and Picking The Right Fight [1:56 pm]

Don’t want to win a case against the Girl Scouts, for example: Disney Tolerates a Rap Parody of Its Critters. But Why?

Nickelodeon, part of Viacom, sees the humorous videos as fair use of its copyrighted content. “Our audiences can creatively mash video from our content as much and as often as they like,” said Dan Martinsen, a Nickelodeon spokesman. “By the way,” he added, “that was a very nice edit job by whoever did the SpongeBob mash.” (That laissez-faire reaction, it should be noted, comes from a company whose corporate parent has a $1 billion piracy lawsuit pending against Google, the owner of YouTube.)

Disney’s view is starkly different: any unauthorized use of Disney property is stealing. Still, the company picks its battles carefully. While it closely monitors the Web for infractions, Disney will not discuss how it evaluates potential cases of copyright infringement and declined to comment on the “Crank That” videos.

The fact that the postings have not been removed — YouTube regularly yanks videos that media companies identify as pirated material — highlights the situation mash-ups pose for media companies: are these videos parodies of cultural icons and thus protected under copyright law, or do they trample on intellectual property?

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