Movie trailer mashups

January 24, 2007

News: USAToday ran an article “Mashups add splice to movies,” which discusses how people are taking movie trailers (and apparently sometimes the movies themselves) released by the movie studios and re-editing them in their own provocative ways. Writes Janet Kornblum: “The Shining is a romantic comedy, Mary Poppins features an otherworldly nanny who frightens innocent children, and Apocalypto is Mel Gibson’s secretly anti-Semitic tirade. It’s also a Zach Braff coming-of-age film. And have you heard about the Titanic sequel?” Movie studio Fox Atomic even has its own website, which allows users to freely mashup movies in the Fox library.

Analysis: Mashups are very dicey under copyright law, no pun intended. Fair use is judged on a case-by-case basis, but it is somewhat risky to take parts of someone else’s copyrighted work and use it in your own (especially when most of the end product is just other people’s works). This past week, the RIAA even had DJ Drama arrested for an alleged criminal violation of the Georgia racketeering statute RICO for his unauthorized commercial use of copyrighted songs in his mixtapes (more here). But that’s a pretty extreme case involving an entire commercial business of making mixtapes. The mashup videos on YouTube probably don’t make their creators any money, and I doubt the mashups compete against or substitute for the originals in the minds of viewers. This may explain why Fox Atomic has already embraced the mashup for its movies.  And the USAToday article doesn’t report any movie studios that have, as of yet, complained.  It might be that the mashup movie trailers help to promote the original movies, at least in some cases.