Monday, February 13, 2006

The Problem With Parody - The Problem With Parody: "Spoof sites are popping up all over the Internet. But with the lawyers not far behind, who will get the last laugh?

But as these parodies proliferate, they're facing some serious trouble. Some artists have taken legal action against spoofers, claiming they trample on copyrights. Corporations have tried to shut down sites that resemble their official Web pages. Some sites that post parodies are even battling each other over allegedly stolen material.

"The whole copyright issue is very touchy, especially on the Internet," says Max Goldberg, operator of, a site that posts thousands of parodies that are available to download.

Mr. Roiland and his friends halted production of new episodes, but left the old ones online. He says Mr. Cosby's lawyers then sent cease-and-desist letters to the companies that hosted and Mr. Roiland's own site, The hosting companies informed Mr. Roiland and that their sites would be shut down unless they provided proof that they weren't infringing on Mr. Cosby's rights -- or unless they removed the shows from their sites. Mr. Roiland and the operators of say they took down the episodes, not wanting to risk the battle.

Sometimes, though, the targets of parody prefer not to fight the site in question. The target, for instance, may not want to draw even more attention to the parody site by suing. In addition, the public could easily sympathize with the little guy if a big corporation, government official or celebrity tries to quash a spoof.

In a recent notorious case, the Yes Men, a group of anticorporate activists, created a Web site,, that imitated Dow Chemical Co.'s site ( The mock-up called attention to actions and operations by Dow Chemical that the Yes Men found objectionable.

In late 2004, BBC World TV mistook the site for the genuine article and sent an invitation through the site for a Dow Chemical representative to speak on television. The phony spokesman said Dow Chemical would take responsibility for a disaster that occurred in Bhopal, India, in 1984 at a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide. Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 2001.

Parodies can come back to bite the spoofers, as well. A year after its scrape with Ludlow Music, JibJab sent a cease-and-desist letter to, a site that used a few snippets of JibJab's "This Land" video in its own creation, "George Bush Doesn't Like Black People."

"You can't control digital information the way you can control radios, television and movies."

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