Beer Pong Players Upset Their Beer Commercial Has Gone Viral… Sue Over Inclusion In World's Funniest Commercials

from the geographic-restricted-virality dept

Oh boy! Where to start on this one. Normally, when you have a commercial on TV, you would like it to go viral so more people see it. We’ve certainly seen some companies use this to their advantage. But what if the actors in those commercials don’t want it to go viral? What if they happen to be (or hope to be) upstanding professionals, and the commercial involves them participating in frat-boyish fun, such as playing beer pong, which they hoped would only be seen in a tiny country on the other side of the globe? Well, that seems to be exactly what happened to a pair of unfortunate (but quite talented) beer pong players, who have now sued the producers of “The World’s Funniest Commercials,” TBS and Carlsberg beer.

You see, Scott Tipton and Christopher Kolb are really good at beer pong. So good, that Carlsberg hired them (and a few others) to perform in this commercial:

However, one of the guys was in law school at the time, and didn’t want his future career prospects diminished by his beer pong prowess. Why? Because, as the complaint explains, “the plaintiffs’ difficult trick-shots indicate substantial experience playing Beer-Pong, i.e., substantial experience drinking substantial quantities of beer — a less than desirable image….” (emphasis in the original). He also did not want his (apparently beer pong ignorant) parents and grandparents to know of his amazing skills at the “most remarkable trick-shot, ricocheting the ping-pong ball four times off of uneven, angled surfaces, and into the beer cup with back-spin, after which both Tipton and Kolb celebrate exuberantly” (emphasis in the original). Because of this, he made sure that the agreement had geographic restrictions, such that it only showed in Denmark. The other guy was an actor, who claims he agreed to a “below standard” rate, knowing that the commercial was only for the Danish market.

But, of course, the video got some attention, and the producers of The World’s Funniest Commercials decided to include it in their show (with Carlsberg’s blessing) which aired in the US on TBS. Even worse, the producers used a clip from the commercial in their own commercial for the show. The guys then try to make the case that the TBS promo was the key reason why people watched the show, and their clip in the promo was the key part, and thus, they deserve 50% of all of TBS’s advertising from the show. Good luck with that.

The lawsuit itself involves California’s popular publicity rights law (that we’ve been talking about a lot lately) as well as a variety of other claims. However, in an age when we’re already pointing out that geographic restrictions are obsolete, does it seem even remotely reasonable that the commercial would never be seen outside of Denmark?

And yes, the legal complaint makes sure to explain just what beer pong is, in case the court is unfamiliar with the… um… sport:

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Companies: carlsberg, tbs

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Comments on “Beer Pong Players Upset Their Beer Commercial Has Gone Viral… Sue Over Inclusion In World's Funniest Commercials”

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Anonymous Coward says:

none of those shots are visually impressive nor the video the least bit memorable, so much so that I would not be able to identify anyone in the video if I was hitting them with blunt objects repeatedly for thinking that throwing a ping pong ball 3 feet across your kitchen into a cup is worth celebrating.

Cynyr (profile) says:

if the original contract does state that this was for only the Denmark market, i’m not sure what the issue is here, They are suing Carslberg for breach of contract. I’m not sure how this made up here, seems(with out reading their contract) to be open and shut.

Granted it being up on Youtube by some random person isn’t really Carlsberg’s fault.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Territory.

The lawsuit is clearly frivolous if their primary interest was to protect their anonymity. Did anybody who didn’t already know them know they were in a beer pong commercial. You know, know their names? Well, now they do. And now they are presumably in Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. Anonymity fail.

Carlsberg did not air the commercial in the US. It was featured as part of a “best as”. What if the commercial had won an award, and was featured in an award show? Would the plaintiffs be suing? Because that was essentially what happened. It was featured as one of the “funniest” commercials in a clip show of funny commercials.

The contract was signed in 2007–ahem, well after the invention of internet video and YouTube. The plaintiffs are idiots if they think that making a commercial for Denmark meant that nobody would see it outside of Denmark.

The issue of remuneration is a different issue. If they were union actors on a union shoot in the US they’d have a clear path to follow. No so much in this instance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not sure if it’s just breach of contract (or breach of contract at all). The contract might not have said “we won’t use it anywhere outside Denmark,” but merely said “we only give you the right to use it in Denmark.”

Believe it or not, there’s a difference. I think they’re suing for right of publicity violation.

(of course I’m too lazy to actually read the complaint right now)

Toby Sullivan (profile) says:

The author of the article was obviously trying to make these guys sound like idiots, unfortunately he included far too much fact for me to see his side.

“He made sure that the agreement had geographic restrictions, such that it only showed in Denmark… The World’s Funniest Commercials decided to include it in their show (with Carlsberg’s blessing) which aired in the US”

It doesn’t sound like they are suing because the commercial went viral (as the author would like you to believe). Instead, they are suing because the firm that hired them violated specific terms of their agreement. If you can’t sue over that, what is worthy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t see an issue with them Suing the people they signed a contract with – Carlsberg IF Carlsberg actually violated the contract. I have not read the leagalese and do not know but it could be possible that the contract forbid Carlsberg from using the advertisement in any campaign outside Denmark which would be different than it ‘being seen’ outside of Denmark.

As for suing the other parties? pure money grab. If The Worlds Funniest Commercials got permission in good faith from the copyright holder than the beer pongers issue would still be with Carlsberg.

sehlat (profile) says:

One Less Lawyer

Or, as the old joke goes, “a good start.”

He has successfully established that he’s not competent enough to BE a lawyer. Let’s see:

1. A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

2. Has no clue about geographic restrictions, in the Age of the Internet, “mean precisely dick.” (Tommy Lee Jones, MIB)

3. It is in the interests of his client (i.e. himself) NOT to call attention to the ad. I wouldn’t hire a lawyer who damaged his own client.

Conclusion: Recruiters for law firms will probably notice item 3 in less time than it took me to get there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait just a second here. Yes, these people are fucking idiots for not realizing that this would end up on youtube and be plastered all over the web.

However, seems to me as though these guys signed an agreement with carlsberg to distribute this commercial only in Denmark. Carlsberg then allowed the commercial to be distributed outside of Denmark. Seems like a legitimate case for me. If carlsberg broke the agreement then the actors should be entitled to some compensation.

Paul Alan Levy (profile) says:


I’m not sure what the measure of damages is going to be in a case like this. It is at least possible that the plaintiff has decided that the potential return from the litigation is worth the cost in exposure.

Of course, it is altogether possible, as Mike suggests, that it didn’t occur to the plaintiff that he would be attacked on Techdirt and ridiculed as a result. But then, it is not at all clear to me that a willingness to be attacked here and ridiculed as a result disqualifies a lawyer from being hired by some major law firms (given the firms that often bring lawsuits that are likely to bring on the Streisand effect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Balance

As far as the breach of contract damages are going to be hard to figure out.

But, as far as the right of publicity, it seems TBS used the video in the promo of World’s Funniest. The promo led to an audience for World’s Funniest which TBS used to sell the advertising shown during World’s Funniest. So the real possible recover is aginst the profits TBS made from the sell of ads shown during World’s Funniest. That’s the money here.

nonanonymous says:

Re: Balance

But then, it is not at all clear to me that a willingness to be attacked here and ridiculed as a result disqualifies a lawyer from being hired by some major law firms

Sounds like you are losing a beer pong game yourself. Even with no blog whatsoever talking about this, his name is associated with beer pong through numerous legal databases, as already stated above. Hence, idiot.

Mr. Gunn (user link) says:

No one's asked the most important question...

Just what the heck is wrong with drinking beer?

“Oh noes, I have a silly hobby! What will people think!?!?”

Let me tell you right now people – As I sit here in cloudy 60 degree weather in late July – California may portray itself as being full of sun and beaches and mellow people, but that’s bullshit. It’s full of self-loathing guys like this who grow up to vote for laws against doing anything that could remotely be perceived as fun.

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