Will GetUp!’s satire GetIt! in trouble?

With an election likely to be called in the next few months, advocacy group GetUp! has launched a campaign encouraging people to ensure they are enrolled to vote.   A key element of this campaign is a YouTube clip portraying the electoral battle as if it were the latest Hollywood action movie.

The clip is cleverly put together – superimposing the faces of  political figures on to the bodies of Hollywood action heroes amd tying together action sequences  with a dramatic soundtrack interspaced by political ‘sound-bites’. It looks and feels like a genuine Hollywood movie trailer, no doubt helped by the fact that GetUp! have utilised footage from actual blockbusters such as The Matrix and The Fifth Element.

Which raises the question of whether this video will land GetUp! trouble for copyright infringement?

Note: I am not a lawyer. The following discussion is based on my experience as a competitive intelligence analyst who has worked in support of  legal teams dealing with issues of copyright and fair dealing. The following discussion is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal issue relating to copyright, please consult a legal practitioner certified to practice in your  jurisdiction.

At the end of the YouTube video, GetUp! acknowledge the copyrighted works they have drawn material from and the associated copyright owners. They also claim that the material has been used for the purpose of parody and satire, potentially bringing them within one of the ‘fair dealing’ categories under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

The Copyright Act defines neither ‘parody’ or ‘satire’, however using the definitions put forward in the fact sheets by the Australian Copyright Council and the Attorney General’s Department,  GetUp’s video could arguably be;

  • a parody – it mocks the  Hollywood blockbusters from which the clips are drawn; and/or
  • a satire  – it ridicules the contest between politicians through hyperbolically comparing it to a fight between action heroes.

But simply being a parody or satire isn’t enough to avoid running afoul of copyright. According to the Australian Copyright Council’s fact sheet:

” The use of copyright material for parody or satire must be “fair”. It is unclear how courts will assess “fairness” whenit comes to this new exception.  However, factors such as the following could be relevant:

• how much of the copyright material is used;
• the context in which the parody or satire is used; and
• whether or not the copyright owner generally licenses such uses.” (Australian Copyright Council Information Sheet G079v05, June 2008)
It’s on these issues where one might begin to wonder if GetUp! is standing on shaky ground. In particular:
  • Whilst the amount of footage from any one film is a a small percentage of that films overall running time, the GetUp! video is almost entirely made up of copyrighted material; and
  • The context in which the material is used is, essentially, an online marketing campaign. GetUp’s video is  an electoral enrolment advertisement, and one that appears designed to be shared virally online to a wide audience.
Hopefully none of the  studios involved will run the risk of the negative publicity associated with taking  action against GetUp!. None-the-less it’s interesting to consider just how fine a line GetUp! may be walking with their electoral enrolment video and whether they may unwittingly become another test case for Australia’s “fair dealing” provisions.

Leave a Reply

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.