A video parody of “Yogi Bear” that’s much darker than your average episode of that vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon – not to mention the coming Warner Brothers film adaptation – isn’t a viral marketing campaign gone awry. But the studio said on Monday that it wouldn’t try to take down the Web satire, either.
Many other viral Youtubes featuring corporate-owned properties like these are often taken down on the basis of copyright violation (which has led to amusing bits of confusion such as Sony temporarily forcing Youtube to remove access to Beyonce songs - from Beyonce's own channel). Indeed, takedowns for copyright infringement range across all the creative industries, from comic-book scan sharers having their Livejournal accounts nuked to the Department of Homeland Security shutting down hip-hop sites.
Although many have argued that owners of copyrighted work should consider a more liberal approach to dealing with infringement of that copyright - or that they should reconsider their distribution models to make on-demand access to the material easier to discourage infringement - this argument has been going on since the age of bootlegged music in the 70s and 80s.
Warner's statement that taking action against the short's creators would be difficult under existing fair use law is, in that light, an admission that they believe transformative works stand a good chance of ultimately being found allowable as a fair use of existing copyright. That should be encouraging for those of us who want to make parody Youtube videos - and those of us who enjoy watching them.