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Giggity giggity

burnett.jpgCarol Burnett is suing Fox over “Family Guy.” But not, as I assumed when I first saw the headline, because the show isn’t nearly as entertaining as it was when it first ran, before being cancelled and then brought back to life. No, turns out that Burnett is suing Fox for copyright infringement, and she’d like a nice little $2 million check from the network.

In an episode from last April, the show featured a clip of a cleaning woman character referred to as “Carol Burnett” and made to look like Burnett’s character, Charwoman:

In the episode, the Charwoman is the maid in a pornography shop. The segment also incorporated an “altered version” of Burnett’s theme music, and the characters in the show perform Burnett’s signature ear tug, her suit states.

And since they didn’t get her permission, she says her publicity rights have been violated. Moreover, she claims this was a revenge tactic because she declined a request to allow the show to use the official theme song to “The Carol Burnett Show.”

In any event, age clearly hasn’t treated Ms. Burnett’s sense of humor very well. Although, again, if she were suing because the bit wasn’t funny, that’d be another matter entirely. You can judge the quality of the bit’s humor yourself over at The Smoking Gun.

| Comments (2)


I think this is an unfair assessment. Burnett owns the animated character that the fox tv show used without her permission. They also used her copyrighted song without her permission.

Does this mean that Freddie Mercury/David Bowie should have had a better since of humor when it came to Vanilla Ice using Under Pressure?

So, as long as someone can claim that they were creating a parody, they can use a copywritten song and image in any way they want without permission? And the person who actually owns said image/song should just get a sense of humor? Is this what you guys are saying on a legal blog?

First of all, your analogy to "Under Pressure" and "Ice Ice Baby" misses the point entirely, because that wasn't a parody. So that's an entirely separate situation.

Second, Burnett doesn't own a copyright in the "animated character." Her character was live action. Does she own a copyright in that live action character? To some extent, perhaps. But let's make it easy, and say that she owns a full-fledged copyright in the character. And we'll include a copyright in the song. And we'll even through in her publicity rights as well.

Despite all these rights, this legal blog most certainly is saying that these rights might have to take a back seat when parody is involved. And it's not just me saying this - that's what the copyright laws say (in fact, the judge in this case has said that he is probably throwing her case out).

Parody is considered a "fair use" of copyrighted materials so, in certain circumstances, one can use copyrighted materials - without permission - in a parody. Now it's not an absolute right. I can't get around a claim of copyright infringement by simply shouting "parody, parody!" And there are many things that ultimately come into play in determining whether something is a legal fair use - how much of the copyright-protected work I used, was my intent for commercial gain, etc.

So you may think that this story is an unfair assessment, but your issue is not with my take on the story - your issue is with the law itself.