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NBC Shoots Self In Foot

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Never mind how much Saturday Night Live has blown chunks in recent years and has little to compete with Mad TV. The first SNL video clip to take the Internet by storm in a long while, Chronicles of Narnia rap spoof “Lazy Sunday,” belongs to NBC. Don’t even think about generating buzz for them.

The New York Times reported that the Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg sketch was viewed some 5 million times on popular social video site YouTube. College students everywhere started thinking, “hey, maybe SNL doesn’t suck anymore.” The may have even started watching again.

But NBC Universal intellectual property lawyers put a stop to that free promotion stuff really quick. Even though the video was available for free at the NBC website, available for purchase through iTunes, and YouTube contacted NBC about some sort of rights agreement, NBC sent the video sharing site a cease and desist asking that all 500 NBC clips be taken off the site. YouTube, shaking its head at the stupidity of it, did as the network asked.

Julie Summersgill, a spokesman for NBC Universal, told the New York Times that the company meant no ill will toward fan sites but wanted to protect its copyrights. Damn the free publicity and forget that whole thing about how those clips have already been paid for at least once over.

Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said this is a harbinger of things to come for social video sites.

“This is an example of the copyright troubles that are waiting for YouTube, Google Video and all the other video hosting services that rely on user-posted content,” said von Lohmann.

Former EFF attorney Wendy Seltzer questions the wisdom of being so bullish about “Lazy Sunday” on Harvard Law’s Berkman blog.

“In this case, it seemed the video’s circulation online was driving more people to watch SNL on television, (and likely encouraging them to watch it live so they could have the first crack at talking about new episodes with friends) — attracting viewers especially among the young, connected demographic advertisers want to reach,” said Seltzer.

“People were making websites, t-shirts, and remixes, and all were helping to build an audience for whatever the Lonely Island team did next. Now, searches on “Lazy Sunday” turn up references to the takedown well ahead of NBC’s site.”

Seltzer suggested that NBC should have taken a different approach by asking YouTube for some kind of clear acknowledgment and a link to NBC’s website. Besides that, said Seltzer, copyright can be enforced at any time, providing that at some point in time a violation causes harm. It’s difficult to see how “Lazy Sunday” memetic popularity was doing anything but positive things for NBC.

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NBC Shoots Self In Foot
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