News Station Falls For April Fool's Prank, Turns to DMCA As Remedy

from the take-downs-don't-actually-make-things-go-away dept

Improv Everywhere, a comedic performance art group based in New York, has a history of pulling off hilarious and impressive “scenes of chaos and joy.” Running “missions” such as the annual “No Pants Subway Ride,” a food court musical, sending 80 people into Best Buy dressed as employees and getting 200 people to “freeze” during rush hour in Grand Central station, these guys are masters of the flash mob and the harmless prank. Last April, in a mission called “Best Game Ever,” they showed up at a little league baseball game with signs, peanut vendors, programs and even an NBC sponsored jumbotron with live commentary and player stats to turn an ordinary event into something extraordinary.

Building on that theme, Improv Everywhere’s latest mission was to create the “Best Funeral Ever,” to pick a random funeral from the obituaries and show up to make it “truly awesome.” It sounds terrible, and the video is pretty horrifying… until you realize it’s from April 1st. The next day, they confirmed it was an April Fool’s joke and that it wasn’t a real funeral — all of the “family members” were actors. Lots of people fell for it (I definitely did at first), but best of all was the local CW 11 news team that covered the YouTube video as if it were a real funeral. Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, uploaded a video of the newscast with the following commentary:

So basically the extent of their reporting is watching a video on YouTube and then describing it as fact on air. They didn’t bother to email Improv Everywhere for comment, call the cemetery to verify, or try to get a quote from the”family.” They just watched the video and threw it on TV. Great journalism!

The story was on the news channel’s website too, but was later removed without any explanation or correction. Now, two weeks later, Todd has received a copyright notice from YouTube that his video of the newscast was removed due to a copyright claim from Tribune (the station’s parent company). First of all, it’s pretty silly to try to hide the mistake rather than owning up to it and posting a correction (Streisand Effect anyone?). But beyond that, it’s pretty ironic and hypocritical that the news organization, which used the Improv Eveywhere video without permission or even proper attribution, would send a take-down notice to the owner of the that video who was commenting on their commentary. Todd writes,

It’s OK for them to air content that we shot and own, but it’s not OK for me to upload their footage of the content they took from me? It’s “fair use” for the news to take a video off of YouTube and broadcast it, but it’s not “fair use” for a citizen to expose their poor reporting on his own content?

Fair use or not, Tribune just found a great way to draw more attention to the fact that their “journalists” fell for the prank and seem to be pretty embarrassed about it.

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Companies: cw-11, tribune company

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Comments on “News Station Falls For April Fool's Prank, Turns to DMCA As Remedy”

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Tgeigs says:

In related news...

“it’s pretty ironic and hypocritical that the news organization…would send a take-down notice to the owner of the that video who was commenting on their commentary”

In related news:

1. The United States UN Ambassador repeated previous requests today that Iran and N. Korea suspend their nuclear weapons programs, claiming, “Non-proliferation of nukes are in everyone’s interest. After all, we all know the more nukes you have, the more evil you are.” He apparently overheard the several others snorting milk through their noses, because he quickly added, “Well yeah, we have them, but it’s not like we’d ever USE them”, at which point the Japanese Amabassador calmly stood from his chair, shouted “Shariuken”, shot a slow moving fireball from the palms of his hands and incinerated the US Ambassador.

TheStuipdOne says:

Re: Sue them buggers!

hmm … I don’t know the legality of using their entire video for commentary, but it looks like both groups did the exact same thing. If I were a judge then I’d say that Tribune’s actions in sending the takedown clearly expresses that this is copyright violation. Therefore Tribune should be fined (or otherwise punished) for using IE’s video. Either that or they should be fined for filing a false takedown.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: This is modern journalism

Erm actually I hold the Daily Show to a higher standard than most news outlets

Their news is usually factually accurate and well researched where it’s important – the bits which are just made up comedy are clear and the whole thing is presented in a manner which actually manages to avoid being condescending

I don’t disagree that this is appaling – the fact that a comedian routinely provides a better news service than the combined might of the media is disgusting. But don’t blame the comedian…

Zaven says:

Idiots of the World Unite

Idiots of the world unite! Oh wait they already did that. They’re called journalists and they’ve formed into groups where they watch youtube and collegehumor clips then talk about them with their peers.

Wait, is that a journalist or a immature teenager? I get these things confused all the time.

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re:

To this, I must disagree. I do not believe there really ever has been a “golden era of journalism”. I suspect that news agencies have always had their bad apples, it is just that today we are able to find out about them much more easily.

Same goes for “violent crimes”. They aren’t happening more (in fact, they are happening less), but we’re hearing about them way, way more because of the wide availability of news these days (CNN has to fill those 24 hours somehow, so they play 3 months straight about some blond college kid that disappears while on vacation).

It just *seems* worse these days.

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