Hillary's Sopranos Spoof: Pretty Woman or the Candidate NOT in the Hat?


Senator and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today unveiled her latest campaign video, the ostensible purpose of which is to reveal the theme song for her campaign.  But what makes it the cleverest campaign video this year also makes it the most interesting copyright "fair use" video this year because, in the words of Kate Philips of the New York Times,

[T]he entire video announcing her choice for a campaign song tracks so closely to the bizarre ending of “The Sopranos” less than two weeks ago - from the soundtrack (”some will win … some will lose”), to the diner, to Bill Clinton’s comment that Chelsea was outside “parallel parking” just like Meadow.

(The Clintons even have a little fun over the onion rings - Mr. Clinton picks up a carrot slice, longs for onion rings but the senator tells him she’s only looking out for him. How’s the campaign going? he asks. She replies, just like A.J., “Focus on the good times.”)

Let's leave to one side the wisdom of casting Hillary in the role of a mob boss or of selecting a U.S. campaign theme song performed by a Canadian (Celine Dion).  Instead, let us flag what the copyright lawyer for Ms. Clinton's campaign may have to confront if the campaign created this ad without obtaining the permissions of the copyright owners, namely, is the Sopranos knock-off sufficiently "transformative" to qualify as a "fair use" parody under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the "Pretty Woman" case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, 510 U.S. 569 (1994) or just a lazy attempt to avoid the drudgery of coming up with something new, as the Ninth Circuit concluded in rejecting the "fair use" defense for a knock-off of Dr. Seuss in The Cat NOT In The Hat,  a retelling of the O.J. Simpson case found to infringe in Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. Penguin Books, 109 F.3d 1394 (9th Cir 1997)?

Stay tuned.  Fellow blogger Geoff Gerber promises to give us the answer. But for now, and in deference to the Soprano's final episode, I just have to say

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