Ava Jokich, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2013 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: You create and post a video on YouTube. The video goes viral and a staffer on Saturday Night Live happens to see the video. She convinces her colleagues at SNL to do a skit spoofing your video. Do you have any rights regarding the video? Can you stop SNL from making fun of your video?
If I posted a video on YouTube, I would have no rights concerning my video being used and spoofed by Saturday Night Live. Since I posted it on YouTube, I gave up my rights to the video because YouTube is a public site. If someone else had taken my video and posted it on YouTube without my knowledge, I would maybe be able to fight for some rights then, but since I knowingly posted it on a public site I waived most of my rights to the video.
I would definitely not be able to stop Saturday Night Live from making fun of my video. Like we have said numerous times in class, the First Amendment doesn’t protect feelings. I posted the video on YouTube, which took away most of my rights to the video, and Saturday Night Live is absolutely allowed to talk about my video or make spoofs based on my video. If Saturday Night Live wanted to air my actual video before they spoofed it, I believe they would have to acknowledge that it was created by me, but I don’t think I would be able to stop them from airing it.
If I wanted to protect my video from being used or being spoofed, I should not have posted it on YouTube. If I absolutely felt the need to post my video on YouTube, to show family members or close friends, I would need to make it a private video. By making it a private video, I get to choose who watches my video and who does not. This would be the only way to protect my video from being used or “going viral” without my permission.
If I felt the need to make a video public, I believe the only way I could protect it from being aired is if I actually say in the beginning of my video that my video cannot be used or broadcast without my permission. That would only protect my video from being aired, though. I would still have no legal rights to stop Saturday Night Live from spoofing it.
Ava Jokich is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Public Relations.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.