Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Colbert Report are the crown jewels, as it were, of the Viacom (VIA.B) family. If you think the shows are funny, just wait until Stewart and Colbert take the stand against YouTube as witnesses for Viacom, the conglomorate which owns MTV Networks, which Comedy Central is part of, and is suing Google-owned (GOOG) YouTube for $1 Beeeeilllion. Apparently, Stewart and Colbert are YouTube famous. Well, they were, until Viacom had YouG’le remove hundreds of thousands of clips from its shows, claiming, essentially, that Google was stealing its content.
It’s a tragic tale of copyright hygiene turned hijinks.
You can read the full story at E! Online if you want, but NewTeeVee‘s Jackson West gives us a fine example of truthiness (define) in action with this spoof on what might happen when Colbert and Stewart testify in court:
New York Southern District court, the Honorable Louis Stanton presiding. Defense counsel Philip Beck calls Stephen Colbert to the witness stand.
Philip Beck: Mr. Colbert, did you not encourage viewers to re-use material from your show?
Stephen Colbert: Yes, but I didn’t ask them to put their work on YouTube for just anyone to watch for free. I asked them to send their submissions to me. As the legal property of Viacom International, my plan was to publish a special commemorative Colbert Report: Green Screen Challenge DVD, available for only $9.95 exclusively at Wal-Mart, where you can find everyday low prices. My friend Bill Gates was working on an especially restrictive new Digital Rights Management technology just for the occasion — it would check to make sure you weren’t on Homeland Security’s “No Fly” list, preventing terrorists from funding their attacks on freedom with profits from illegal piracy.
Beck: But wouldn’t that amount to free work on the part of your viewers for your benefit?
Colbert: Look, profits make me happy, and I have a constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness. And how better to make profits than to have people working for you for free? I’m a traditionalist, and as a country we have a long tradition of making people work for free — and I, good sir, am proud to support other people who are willing to give their lives to protect those values.
Beck: So you do believe that fans posting clips from shows serves a promotional purpose?
Stewart: Whoa, doctor! When pundits with books to sell and candidates with a demographic to reach out to agree to appear on the show, it’s with the understanding that I’m beholden to the same media overlords that they are. As a fake news professional, I treat that obligation with respect. You can’t trust the fake news amateurs on the Internet to provide the kind of nuanced context that, say, a double-entendre in an over-the-shoulder title graphic provides.
Keep reading… if you can handle the truthiness.
UPDATE — Here’s how the Daily Show parodied the Viacom/YouTube suit. The video has been slightly doctored by a fan, making it a supposedly legal parody of a parody. (Is there an intellectual property attorney in the house?)