In YouTube 'Comic' Parody, Taylor Swift Is Killed--And Sony Objects

Some of the most disgusting stuff in the world is protected by the First Amendment, as the ACLU can attest. But controversy of Sony’s earlier decision to remove “The Interview” from theaters made that whole free-speech thing shoot right up into the realm of “trending.”

Then Sony changed its mind, and Seth Rogen tweeted, “Freedom wins!” Cool.

Just as we were wrapping that episode up, we heard about YouTube parodist Shane Dawson’s problems with Taylor Swift--and Sony.  The music publisher arm of Sony convinced YouTube to remove Dawson’s parody version of  “Blank Space.”  

Sony argues the parody violates copyright laws. That sounds a little flimsy to Dawson, in part because other parodies he’s done of Swift songs are still on YouTube and quite popular. Also, because parody is usually protected as a fair use exception to copyright laws. Otherwise, parody would be pretty hard to pull off.

What is more likely is that Sony wants it off YouTube because it’s one very disturbing, very violent video, that ends with her murder, in a gruesome way. Sony's distaste is understandable. Maybe not legally defensible, but understandable.

The original “Blank Space” video has been downloaded 240 million times on YouTube since November 10. The video’s story is pretty standard-fare Taylor Swift: She professes great love for a guy she suspects will disappoint her, at which point she’ll destroy him. And that’s what happens, at a palatial estate where things go well, and then go badly, culminating with her destruction of his sports car. (Not really. The creator’s note on the video states, “No animals, trees, automobiles or actors were harmed in the making of this video.” Really.)

The Dawson parody, by contrast, is Hannibal Lecter-dark, and because YouTube is YouTube, and even though it’s been officially removed, it’s extremely easy to find.

His version parodies the lyrics, from the man’s point of view. The video shows his obsession with Swift and includes him violently killing his former girlfriend--really kind of obliterating her body--and then stalking a Taylor Swift look-alike (after murdering her bodyguard). But when he kisses her against her will, he feels nothing. If only the video ended there.

Writes one viewer of the Dawson video, in his own language: “I don't know but this video is like texas massacre its so gross and really creepy horror kind of video DUNNO i think its just too gross serously killing girlfriend creepey face using taylor face and tons of BLOOD and while he kills those guys the song stops that makes the scene more scarier my opinion no need to be angry i like Shane altrough hes so mature that some of his videos is only for adults.” 

Well said! Dawson has posted another video, this one complaining about the decision to take down his parody. In no uncertain terms, and with a surplus of obscenity, he objects, strenuously, and unfortunately, he’s right.

The only reason for YouTube to take down his parody would be because it’s so ugly, scary, hateful and violent. A publisher shouldn’t allow it, but I’d guess the First Amendment would protect it. Many of the people responding to his video, and now commenting about his video in the comment portion of Swift’s video, are saying the same things, in their own way

Still, Shane. I fear you have some serious issues.  

As for Sony, what an interesting parallel hell. It is objecting to a video that depicts the murder of an artist it has under contract. Any similarity to North Korea’s objections to a comedy about the murder of its leader is purely ironic.
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