CW-11 news claims clip of them airing YouTube prank infringes copyright


37 Responses to “CW-11 news claims clip of them airing YouTube prank infringes copyright”

  1. igpajo says:

    That kind of made my head hurt a little.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Improv Everywhere had the right to post the CW 11 News broadcast as a criticism of Tribune’s unauthorised use of their copyrighted material. This is enshrined within US copyright law.

  3. Jay Acker says:

    I don’t care where you come down on this issue between T.V. news and Improv Everywhere, but I’m going to get on my own soap box and denounce practical jokes and gags.

    I don’t find them funny, I don’t partake in them and I think less of people who are obsessed with them.

    Come on, I can’t be the only one who just sees the cruel nature of humiliating someone else who isn’t in on the joke.

  4. Jay Acker says:

    Once I got off my soapbox and started thinking about the issue, I guess the only difference between the television media’s “fair use” and your showing a clip of them is that they are the media and you aren’t.

    It certainly is an obvious claim of hypocrisy in that you could’ve claimed the same copyright infringement when they showed your video in the first place by their logic.

    BTW as a journalist, television news is notorious for doing news the easy way. Just think about why the weather report is in every newscast and how much you actually need it. TV news has a weather segment because its an extremely cheap and easy segment to produce and fill time every night, not because it gives any worthwhile information.

    PS, I love the condescending “gotcha” tone the anchor uses to sensationalize this time filler fluff of non-news, and of course they wouldn’t dream of correcting the record by admitting that they were the ones who were got.

  5. mbdrake says:

    Oh, the Daily Mail in the UK does that kind of thing all the time. Or rather, they take photos from Twitpic and put a (C) Twitter attribution on the photo itself.

    One classic example is this:

    They’re hardly going to attribute the copyright to Jonathan Ross and keep attacking him in the article are they? Much safer to make the copyright attribution up to Twitter.

    I’ve written about the Daily Mail’s practice here:


  6. David Carroll says:

    Jay Acker @3:

    Like just about anything else, practical jokes and gags in moderation are OK. They serve to teach a valuable lesson to the “victim”.

    Hopefully they will become a little more sceptical. In this case it may teach lazy “journalists” to get off their buts and make a few (or at least one) phone call and/or web search before airing a story.

    Now some jokes and gags can go too far and be cruel and not-funny. But I don’t see that in this case.

    This reminds me of a workplace initiation story I once heard: The first day on the job a new hire was asked to go to another department of the company and ask to borrow an AC battery. Every employee he met would smirk and say “We don’t have those here try department x down the way”. After the newbie had visited just about every square inch of the plant and met just about every employee, they would let he or she in on the fact that there is no such thing as an AC battery!

    But: Now this rookie has been introduced to everyone,and has a clue as to where all the departments are and what they do.

    P.S. I am aware that there are in fact AC batteries, but they are rather exotic and relatively new tech.

  7. larsrc says:

    The obvious response by ImprovEverywhere would be:

    Thank you for bringing your unauthorized airing of our copyrighted material to our attention. Please pay $ or face a copyright lawsuit for statutory damages.

  8. Daemon says:

    #3 You do realize that the best gags of this sort involve anyone being humiliated or otherwise victimized in any way, right? For the most part the Improv Everywhere pranks leave people confused – and occasionally delighted.

    For example, Improv Everywhere’s food court musical:

  9. Hans says:

    I think the key part of US copyright law being overlooked by this thread is the well established precedent of “all your copyrights are belong to us.”

  10. Anonymous says:

    This was NOT a practical joke at all. Note the “pretended they’d done a flashmob at a funeral.”

    The inability of people on all sides to look at the information presented and then evaluate its veracity is typical of the poor attention to detail that is prevalent across the internet.

    CW11 are at fault for the take-down. The reporting by them of the ‘funeral’ is a valid use of the material.

  11. WalterBillington says:

    Urgh. Acidic vom in their faces.

  12. Anonymous says:

    See Section 10.1, particularly the latter part.

    I suspect (but don’t speak fluent legalese) they gave permission by submitting their content to Youtube, while Tribune did not.

    Not that that makes it nice or fair, of course.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It was a fake funeral. If anyone actually watched the video off the Improve everywhere web site, they tell you this in the opening.

    Love how the news people freaked out over it though.

  14. mkultra says:

    @ Jay Acker:
    You seem upset at the notion that this practical joke was had at the expense of mourners at a funeral, yet the first sentence of this article states that Improv Everywhere pretended to stage a flashmob at the funeral, and that they then uploaded the staged video to youtube. The words “pretended” and “staged” suggest that this was not a practical joke on the funeral-goers at all, but rather a clever bit of theatre. Perhaps you are upset that you yourself were deceived?

  15. Anonymous says:

    The gag was on the self-righteous newscaster trying to elicit outrage from the audience.

  16. jccalhoun says:

    Do as I say and not as I do. If the USA Government hasn’t taught us this yes then nothing will.

  17. zyodei says:

    Well, what they were doing was basically commenting on the YouTube video. That represents the extent to which they improved upon the media. So, I think this is totally fair game – all of my YouTube comments are copyrights, and you must pay me $10 per viewing.

  18. adonai says:

    The Media is dead, let us pray etc. That said, Youtube T&Cs probably state that ImprovEverywhere gave up their rights to their footage by posting it there…

  19. Roast Beef says:

    Are people seriously anti-Improv Everywhere on the basis that they are practical jokers? Firstly, a cursory read-through of the OP will inform you that this was not an actual funeral; everyone involved is an actor. Nextly, a (*very*) short Google search will show you that their pranks are rarely (if ever) on somebody. Their missions are absurdist scores that disrupt the everyday grind, not humiliate those out of the loop. Frozen Grand Central? Slow-mo Home Depot? Shirtless Abercrombie? Recursive Starbucks? “Suicide jumper” on an absurdly short ledge? Their missions may confuse, but they are not designed to harm.

    (The one great exception that I can think of is “Best Gig Ever”, in which Improv Everywhere agents descended on an out-of-town band’s first NYC gig pretending to be superfans. Sure, it’s great to play a show to people who look like they’re enjoying themselves, but when the entire audience disappears immediately after your last chord? I wonder if this “Awesome Funeral” project is kind of a tongue-in-cheek reference to the band debacle.)

    I think Improv Everywhere is a close relative of Operation Mindf*ck, and thus well within the sphere of Happy Mutants Doing Wonderful Things.

  20. webmonkees says:

    Okay, I see in the future, there being a larger working budget for ImprovEverywhere. Clearly, the news article impeached itself..

    1. They teased it before commercials. (See it here!) $$
    2. They suggest ‘see the whole video’ on their ad-laden website. $$

    Clearly, the news station is making money off the
    usage of IO’s footage.

    Don’t get lawyers involved, just negotiate a trade: ‘borrowing’ a news crew for a future improv session. I think a variant on War of the Worlds with eyewitness interviews, while the rest of the crowd is going wha?

  21. Blue says:

    @ #5 mbdrake

    If the Daily Mail is doing that, it’s obviously in breach of copyright (for unauthorised use of the image) but they’re also breaking the one aspect of copyright that in Europe CANNOT be given away, licensed or sold – moral right to be identified at the author of the copyrighted work.

    Johnathan Ross is the author, not Twitter and to claim otherwise is in itself a breach of European copyright. (As I understand it – if I’m wrong, plz correct me).

  22. Anonymous says:

    Improv Everywhere don’t do cruel, horrible, or humiliating pranks, dudes. D:

    While others would hijack the Walmart PA system, IE would form a musical number.

    Their sole mission is provide confusion or lift people’s moods from routine. They’re not aiming for funny.

  23. jjasper says:

    With actual reporting budgets getting cut left and right, this *is* the future of journalism. Imagine if all of your local and world news was replaced with a bunch of you-tube videos that the intern at a local TV station found with the “threat or menace” question tacked on to it, and no actual reporting.

    Yeah it’s a reductio-ad-absurdum sort of future, but steps are being taken in that direction. We get here form the “blogger finds story from other blogger, links to that, and gets connected in a chain of blog posts” model of news “reporting” and we loose out on actual investigative journalism.

  24. mbdrake says:

    @ #18 Blue

    Indeed. I’ve tried emailing the Daily Mail, but they do not acknowledge anything I’ve told them. Similarily, I’ve tried contacting the Press Complaints Commission – but they won’t step in because it’s a legal issue.

    If the Daily Mail wants to open itself up to being sued – I think most celebrities won’t care (unfortunately) their pictures are being used because as the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity – even by the Daily Mail.

    Have reported this to Twitter who just came back and told me that “no, they don’t own the copyright” and closed the case. I asked them to forward it onto their legal department (after all, if Twitter is implied as being the legal copyright owner of somebody else’s photos – doesn’t this open them to legal issues too?).


  25. Xopher says:

    I say sue the bastards. Don’t settle out of court. Appeal if you lose. Force this to become caselaw.

    Then we’ll know for sure if we live in a country entirely by, for, and about big fatass corporations. (Smart money bets: we do.)

  26. Anonymous says:

    by my reading of the link, you grant YOUTUBE the right to use the video. The affiliate is NOT Youtube.

  27. mbdrake says:

    Should point out that in terms of photography, the copyright lies with whoever is taking the photograph – so in the example I quote above, it wouldn’t be with Jonathan Ross.

  28. senorglory says:

    Improv Everywhere is never funny.

  29. JJR1971 says:

    I’d be kinda pissed if some TV station used one of my YouTube videos without my permission, though if they were using it to do “commentary/critique”, with reporter voiceovers and stuff then I guess that’s also fair use.

    But if they just broadcast it whole, without comment, just “hey, look at this”, then no, get my permission first! I’d probably still say yes and not ask any $$ but…I’d like the option to say no (which I might, if it were Fox News, say).

  30. airshowfan says:

    When you upload a video to YouTube, you agree that this video may be embedded on any website (unless you un-check that box), as long as you leave the video up. You still own the copyright, but you agree to let anyone else show it.

    So unless you took down the video, or un-checked that box, you cannot sue someone for showing a video that you posted on YouTube and that you own the copyright to.

    When it comes to commercial purposes, things get a little trickier. On the one hand: YouTube itself has ads on it (and I don’t know whether you can opt out of them – I don’t think you can), and the majority of websites that embed YouTube stuff have ads on them (and I’m sure you can’t tell YouTube “My video may only be embedded on sites without ads”; it’s either all or none). So someone who posts on YouTube effectively has to be ok with others making money by embedding the video. So Improv Everywhere cannot reasonably have a problem with the TV station showing their video. Probably wouldn’t hold up in court.

    (On the other hand, the lawyers in the company I work for have decided that monetizing on other people’s YouTube videos might be illegal, and thus we are strictly forbidden to embed YouTube videos on our webpages, even on internal pages. We may only link to the video as shown on Sure, our lawyers might be too paranoid, since a bazillion websites with ads embed YouTube videos… but my point is, the issue isn’t 100% clear).

    As for whether posting the TV station video on YouTube is fair use, that’s tricky. If the video only has a small amount of footage of the news people (How small is “small”?), includes commentary (Ideally in the video itself, but I guess possibly in the description or comments), doesn’t replace the news show in its market (i.e. people don’t stop watching the news show on TV and instead just watch the YouTube clip – which is ridiculous), then it probably should be OK, but possibly not. But it doesn’t matter in the case of YouTube, since to post something on YouTube you agree that you own the copyright to it, and if you don’t own the copyright to it YouTube reserves the right to take it down, fair use or no.


    (IANAL, but I’ve done enough work on this kind of thing to have a pretty good understanding of it, I think).

  31. Jay Acker says:

    Aargh, for all you who think I’m a dimwitted simpleton, I assure you that I am well aware of the intricacies of this particular situation.

    I for one think my fav Improv everywhere is when they all dressed up as Best Buy employees and proceeded to help people in the store.

    I simply took this opportunity of a – yes I understand its staged – practical joke to vent my opinion of practical jokes in general.

    Of which I do not find funny.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know about the US, but down here in NZ television *does* have special fair use provisions all of their own. For eg if they want to use a photo I get the idea they can run it with a credit without any permission.

    ANACL though.

  33. Talia says:


    If you’ve never chuckled at a single improv anywhere segment, Its fair to say you have no sense of humor.

    What do you find funny? watching paint dry? grass grow?

    Good grief.

  34. Anonymous says:

    While you give permission to YouTube when you upload to use on their *website* use in a TV broadcast is certainly not included. (see Section 6(c)). ImprovEverwhere’s videographers have a colorable copyright infringement claim. IAAL, for what it’s worth.

  35. Takuan says:

    to kill a copyright lawyer, put it between two mirrors.

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