A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that filmmakers may superimpose digital ads over existing outdoor ads that appear in movies.
A New York City landlord and an outdoor advertising firm filed suit against Sony Pictures in April, alleging that the company stole advertising revenue when it replaced ads for companies like NBC that really appear on their buildings with other digital ads it had sold to firms including Cingular Wireless in the movie "Spider-Man."
The plaintiffs argued that "advertisers depend on the fact that their ads will not only be seen by the hundreds of millions of people who pass through Times Square each year but also on the residual impact of their signs appearing in photographs, newspapers, magazines, TV shows, movies and elsewhere."
In his ruling, Judge Richard Owen stated that the superimposed ads deserve some First Amendment protection because they are part of a fictional work. "What exists here is for artistic purposes a mixture of a fictionally and actually depicted Times Square...this has First Amendment protection," Owen wrote.
So the judge seems to be saying it’s OK to superimpose ponied up digital ads over real ads as long as it is for fictional artistic purposes.
Hummm. Think of the possibilities!
Can Gator now superimpose its ads over real ads on the websites of all those major domains suing them if the “spokesperson” for say 10x spy cameras is a cartoon character or maybe Tom Sawyer? Both are fictional and artistic.
Can Cablevision superimpose local ads over national ads of the cable and broadcast shows its system carries if they run during fictional and artistic programming?
Can NBC wipe out and replace all the product placements in fictional and artistic shows they buy from program syndicators?
Can my local Fox station voice over “Milky Ways” when the characters in Seinfeld reruns really say “Junior Mints.” Jerry, George and Kramer are, after all, fictional and artistic?
Why stop there?
How about replacing that nerdy Carrie Weaver in ER with say Selma Hyack or Heidi Klum?
Let’s see if we can figure a way to superimpose West Wing’s Jed Bartlett over George W. He never seems to make a wrong call and clearly is about five times smarter.
We have lots of Jerry West film in the vaults, let’s paste him over Alan Iverson.
We could superimpose Thomas Watson over Steve Case. There’s a guy who knew how to run a digital company.
How about every time Dan Rather does the CBS news, instead we see and hear Walter Cronkite?
Let’s digitally dissemble the images of all those Wall Street analysts who kept shouting “Buy, buy” while the market was cratering and reassemble them as a horses behind. I don’t think the viewers would need ANY explanations.
Finally, let’s take the home movies of me shot 20 years ago and paste them over any current images (say ATM surveillance shots or videotaped presentations at conferences) so that for just those few moments I can feel young again!
John Durham is COO of Interep Interactive.