What's The Damage When An Ad Is Copied?

from the just-curious dept

Lots of folks are buzzing over the fact that the latest iPod commercial from Apple starring Eminem looks an awful lot like a commercial for boots from a few years ago. The still shots from each ad certainly do show a striking resemblance. However, while the ads may be similar, is there really grounds for any kind of lawsuit? From the article it sounds like some of the parties are angry about it, but the only discussion of suing is hinted at in the last line of the article where an exec at the company behind the first ad says that they’re going to “take all the steps… to protect our rights.” Just what rights are those? Is there really any confusion caused by the ads? Are people going to start thinking that Apple is endorsing the boots, or the boot company is endorsing Apple? If anything, Apple has a much stronger brand name than the boot company — so this whole thing is probably giving the boot company a lot more publicity than any “harm” to their brand. It seems like yet another case where someone feels they need to protect their “intellectual property” because they can, rather than because it makes good business sense. Unless, of course, the company is counting on the fact that by stirring up the pot with lawsuit threats they’re increasing the publicity, without having to actually having to file any lawsuit. Either way, if a lawsuit is filed, it may be quite difficult for the boot company to show any kind of damages. As a random aside, last we heard, Eminem was suing Apple over their use of one of his songs in a commercial. Apparently that situation was resolved.

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Comments on “What's The Damage When An Ad Is Copied?”

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poo poo on their party. says:

Publicity Stunt?

If we took all the commercials in the world that looked, sounded, or had any other common elements, then stuffed them and their creators and companies into a court to decide who violated some copyright law, it could end up taking years to get decisions on all of them. The sad thing is, once we got done with round one – then we would have to do it all over again.

To add to the fun, we could take every music group to court who mimics the Beatles formula for writing music (1 4 5 repeat) and tie up entire court system for years on end. The only benefit that I can see there is at least a few bands that I don’t like would be taken off the streets and no longer able to write crappy music.

What this all boils down to is that these “executives” and “artists” need to suck it up and realize that there is a difference between an exact copy of a creation and something that looks almost like. These people aren’t as special or cutting edge as they like to think they are.

Jon Abad says:

Same as copying any other creative work

While I’m also curious to see what rights can be protected by the original ad owners, my point of view is that copying an advertisement is subject such fair uses such as parody but if you watch the two ads, you will see that they are ridiculously similar. Like monkeys at typewriters to write Shakespeare similar.

It would be clear case if the same agency sold the same ad to two clients but these are two different agencies and the second claims that they “don’t use third party ideas” or something to that effect in order to climb some moral high horse.

Its just a black eye for Apple when Jobs takes pride in announcing a new ad campaign which was cutting edge the first time around when it was commissioned for Lugz. I expect that someone at the apple ad agency will get the boot but I doubt that there’s room for legal recourse.

but then, I’m not a lawyer.

Just one guy says:

No Subject Given

Mike, really…
I like a lot your comments, and always have been struck by your ideas and insight. But sometimes you appear less than brilliant.
It’s not Apple or Lugz that will have problems with these ads, but the advertisement companies themselves: they are different companies, and one has copied (or has taken excessive inspiration, if you prefer) from the other. If I were the other company, I would be extremely pissed off. And also, if I were Apple, I would also be extremely pissed off for this: Apple paid good money and got back a copy. Not good.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

It’s not Apple or Lugz that will have problems with these ads, but the advertisement companies themselves: they are different companies, and one has copied (or has taken excessive inspiration, if you prefer) from the other. If I were the other company, I would be extremely pissed off. And also, if I were Apple, I would also be extremely pissed off for this: Apple paid good money and got back a copy. Not good.

Yeah, but if you read the article, it’s the boot company that’s threatening to sue, not the ad firm… So, you may say that makes me look “less than brilliant,” but it’s what’s happening.

Director Mitch (user link) says:

Re: Surely the smart thing to do ...

Copyright law is not like patent law. It does not matter that Apple has the “stronger” brand or that the consumer “won’t be confused”. The expression of any idea – even in a commercial – is protected copyright.

And while everyone likes to bash commercials, they are still covered by the same copyright protection as books, songs, and even what is written on this blog. And while I have not seen either commercial, from what you described it does not sound like “fair use” comes into play (it is not parody, it is not journalism, and it IS for commercial purposes).

Ultimately the issue will be decided in court, but it sounds to me that Apple (or its ad agency) screwed up. My guess is that, like the George Harrison copyright lawsuit that he lost (speaking of the Beetles above) it was a subconscious “oops” by the person at the ad agency and Apple will end up having to pay for the idea again.

It doesn’t matter that “one brand

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Surely the smart thing to do ...

Copyright law can be pretty unhelpful if you don’t have an exact copy. I was just at a conference about two months ago, and a copyrighter told us that if you were to take an idea, and make as many as two changes to that idea, then the whole thing can be considered your own. Of course, this guy was talking about print media, and even more specifically, recipies. While two commercials may look and sound the same, as long as there are some differences, then the the idea can be considered your own. There is a very good chance that the company with the first commercial took their idea from another place anyway.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Lugz/Apple/Eminem

I’m going to guess you’ve never worked in advertising. If you knew the hours and hours of work and creative energy that goes into the tiniest of spots you’d probably be a lot more sensitive to the issue.

It’s not about “sensitivity” to the issue. We talk about this stuff all the time. I’m seriously asking where’s the “harm” in this? It makes apple’s agency look bad, and that’s probably punishment enough. If the ad firm gets the reputation of taking ideas, fewer people may go to them for ads.

I fail to see why a legal solution to this matter is any better.

Stoned4Life (user link) says:

AOL & NetZero

Does anyone remember the AOL commercials where they were sitting at a table, and blah blah, at one point they look out the window and see this huge crowd of people supporting aol or w/e??

Well, NetZero copied that commerical, as far as it looked like the whole first half was the original copy, but when they looked out the window, there was a zoom in on a crowd holding up NetZero signs.

Apparently there was nothing mentioned about IP rights, and AOL launched a different AD while the NetZero one was still running. Apparently both have new ad campaigns now anyway.

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