Thursday, June 17, 2010

stirring the pot

In January of last year I read that DVD sales of Monty Python's Flying Circus spiked 23,000 percent (!) once Python-approved clips of the show started appearing legally on YouTube. DVDs of the influential 1976-'84 sketch-comedy series SCTV, which are packaged and distributed by Shout! Factory, have reportedly never sold well, but if potential buyers could see sample sketches on YouTube, especially clips from 1981 to '83, when SCTV was firing on all cylinders as part of NBC's late-night lineup, I bet they'd consider spending $50 on a five-disc set.

I e-mailed Second City executive vice president Kelly Leonard, who spoke with CEO Andrew Alexander, one of SCTV's original executive producers, but his reply seemed to indicate that several different companies have rights to the show's footage, thereby creating a lot of red tape to sift through. However, a few months later I noticed that SCTV clips were appearing on YouTube that weren't immediately being taken down through cease-and-desist orders.

The clips that are up on YouTube aren't coming from Second City or Shout! Factory, but it's possible the companies decided to relax their policy on the unauthorized posting of their copyrighted material.

Am I to thank for that? Yes. Yes, I am. But there was a price to pay.

One of the few SCTV-related clips I could find on YouTube in January of '09 was made by a 13-year-old boy doing impressions of his favorite characters from the show, including station owner Guy Caballero (played by Joe Flaherty) and station manager Edith Prickley (Andrea Martin), in costume. I first saw SCTV when I was around that age, so I loved watching this middle schooler's take on the characters. It reminded me how much I adored the show when it aired on Nick at Nite in the summer of '89. And if this teenager gets the humor, which didn't rely that much on topical references aside from popular TV shows and celebrities of the late '70s and early '80s, it seems obvious to me that others would, too.

Sadly, when I went back to YouTube this morning to watch his video again, I found the following message instead: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by The Second City." Well, what about all those clips from SCTV that are now available on YouTube (remember—all because of me, and you're welcome)? There isn't any copyright claim on those? The 13-year-old fan got screwed because his video wasn't helping to sell DVDs?

In that case, I'm sorry I got involved. You can still thank me, of course, and send me money through PayPal as a sign of gratitude, but my mission was never to hurt the little guy. I feel like a morally indignant Bill Needle right now, but what I see in the mirror is a greedy Johnny LaRue.


  1. That really is outrageous. Makes you want to go to their lawyers' offices and slap them.

  2. Obviously I don't know why the "SCTV" clips that have been up since early 2009 are still there, or why Second City and Shout! Factory aren't putting clips up themselves, but it is unfortunate that the 13-year-old's video was taken down. It's thrilling to see someone that age being inspired by "SCTV."