Fun(ny) Copyright Cases

Learning about publishing law may be a lot of work, but it sure is entertaining. In my last class, we discussed a couple of particularly interesting cases, one of which involves the video you see above.

South Park is no stranger to lawsuits. But their most recent one concerns copyright infringement upon a hit YouTube video from 2007. In 2008, South Park released an episode entitled, “Canada on Strike,” which featured a recreation of Samwell’s hit video. South Park called their video, “What, What, in the Butt.”

Obviously, South Park is claiming parody under fair use as a defense. This is, after all, what South Park is all about. But did they copy excessively? Is this a case of copyright infringement? What do you think?

The next case involves the (now dead) magazine, Cooks Source. In their October issue, the magazine used word-for-word an article written by Monica Gaudio–without her permission–on their Facebook page, online magazine, and print issue. When Monica wrote the magazine editor, asking for an apology and a small donation to Columbia’s School of Journalism, this was the response she got:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

Two weeks later, the magazine closed. My whole class laughed at this one–obviously there is something wrong when the magazine editor thinks that just because something is published on the Internet, it’s public domain. There are literally tons of cases that prove her wrong. Epic fail.

Here’s the full story on Gawker: Magazine Editor Steals Article, Tells Writer ‘You Should Compensate Me!’


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