You Tube – Lazy Sunday = Crazy Ironic
I usually love irony. It’s my favorite flavor, in fact. But this is a situation full of what I would call bitter irony.
As just about everybody with access to the World Wide Web is aware, back in December a digital short called “Lazy Sunday”, the brain child of The Lonely Island Dudes & veteran SNL-er Chris Parnell, made it’s debut on Saturday Night Live and in no time became an internet sensation, mostly via You Tube, a website where members upload their favorite videos. At last count “Lazy Sunday” was viewed (no exaggeration) somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million times on that website. The Lazy Sunday phenomenon made headlines and has, it’s been said, breathed new life into SNL, as viewership has steadily increased since the video’s airing.
Smelling gold, NBC temporarily made LS available to download for free on iTunes, then subsequently charged $1.99 for the video (along with many other popular SNL skits.) This is, of course, something NBC has every legal and moral right to do and I’m glad they’re making some of the older skits available. I have myself sent in an email request to Lorne Michaels via his website to make my all-time favorite SNL skit, “Synchronized Swimmers” starring Martin Short, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, available to purchase on iTunes. (We’re thisclose, Lorne & I,* so I’m expecting a response from him any day now.) I would, of course, happily shell out the two bucks to be able to watch this comedy classic from the comfort of my own computer chair. In fact if I hadn’t already taken advantage of the NBC/iTunes free Lazy Sunday download I’d shell out the two bucks for that as well.
However, and this is where the bitter irony comes into play (I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for it), today it was reported that NBC has ordered You Tube to remove “Lazy Sunday” from their website. Legally and morally they have every right to do so. Simply and obviously stated, they own the rights to the skit and so naturally they control how and where it can be used. But I can’t help but wonder (sorry if that makes me sound like Carrie Bradshaw…crikey!) whether this is necessarily a wise thing to do. After all, without fans making “Lazy Sunday” available for free on You Tube to begin with NBC wouldn’t be looking at this potential iTunes goldmine. Not to mention the fact that the increase in SNL’s audience caused by Lazy Sunday’s popularity means increased commercial revenue for the network. And none of that cost NBC a dime because–THAT’S RIGHT–fans did it for ’em for free! It’s not wise to look a gift fan in the mouth.
Another ironic aspect of this story is that The Lonely Island Dudes themselves (whose work I’ve lauded previously on The Fine Line) were discovered in part due to the fact that they made their work available–for free–on the internet using a Creative Commons license. I don’t in any way look at NBC’s decision as a reflection on the comedy trio, but it’s still…bitterly ironic. And just another battle in the continuing war of Internet Users vs. Copyright holders.