Using the Law to Generate Publicity for a New Venture

Overview


An independent interactive marketing agency started a new online business to promote young comics (the "Start Up") and sought to drive traffic to it recently launched web site. Months prior to launching the web site, the Start Up dubbed snippets from a high grossing film to lampoon the recent behavior of one of Hollywood's highest paid actor/directors (the "Property"). The Property was posted on YouTube and generated a small amount of buzz. Three months after the launch of the Property on YouTube, a network television show (the "Network") ran a parody of the same actor. This Network appeared to have copied the idea directly from the Property, using much of the same language but in the context of a different movie. Though the Start Up was intrigued about the prospect of suing the Network for damages related to copyright infringement, it contacted my Firm to determine how to profit from the perceived infringement.

Objective


The Start Up was both eager and anxious to pursue legal action against the Network; however, it had failed to copyright the Property. As a result, the chances of a favorable outcome of a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Network appeared slim. My Firm was faced with the task of managing the Start Up's expectations from recovery of damages to something that would generate a low cost, yet extremely effective consequence. After some discussion, my Firm worked with the Start Up to alter its objective from the pursuit of damages and an injunction against the Network to generating publicity to the Start Up, increasing the flow of its traffic to the website, and generating buzz about the mission and future success of the Start Up.

Strategy


My Firm drafted a Cease and Desist Letter to the Network detailing the alleged copyright infringement and strongly suggesting that the Network remove the infringing parody from its web site and future broadcasts immediately. The Network vehemently denied the infringement, and it appeared that the Network would defend any action taken against it aggressively. However, the new objective was achieved. The Start Up generated a press release about the David and Goliath nature of the conflict that was picked up by a host of national publications and blogs.

Outcome


The end result of drafting and sending the Cease and Desist Letter was a ten-fold increase in hits to the web site of the Start Up. As a result, the Start Up attracted up and coming comedians to the Start Up for the purpose of producing and distributing their material, thereby becoming both a producer and a manager for a series of talented comics.