Since the dawn of the first (and now annoying) chime of “you’ve got mail,” content copyright battles between mom-and-pops and mega-behemoth titans rage on predictably. More often than not, the default outcome is the titan unleashing litigation, at considerable cost and embarrassment.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see Warner Brothers apply a dose of PR common sense in a recent skirmish over its newest film release “Yogi Bear” (now the negative film reviews, that’s another issue entirely). Edmund Earle, a young animator and apparent fan of the decades old characters, made his own digital parody with Yogi and Boo Boo based on another film, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
Say what you want about Earle’s unusual taste in story telling, but give your real kudos to Warner Brother’s PR team. No doubt the studio was set to, err, pull the trigger and litigate the video into non-existence. Instead, somewhere along the way the PR and legal minds met at the table and everyone took a deep breath. Knowing how costly it would have been to fight this battle, and appreciating the reality that once a video goes online it never truly disappears, the Warner Brothers team did the sensible thing. They contacted Earle, requested that he add a disclaimer in his clip’s credits, and poof… the story got little to no traction.
Now imagine if this play-by-play were replaced with scorched-earth litigation. Not only would the video have bounced around Facebook status updates and Twitter, but other animators would have rushed to Earle’s defense and probably have produced other parodies that skewered the studio.
As much as litigation PR is about telling your client’s side of the story, it’s also about appreciating the likely outcomes of a lawsuit and knowing that a small lump here and there beats a costly legal battle any day of the week.