Our own Mp3 Experiment
August 20, 2016 3:40 PM   Subscribe

We (a group of theatre/film types) are thinking of doing our own mp3 experiment, in the style of Improv Everywhere. We can handle the logistics: production of the mp3 files, email lists, filming. I have some legal concerns:

The Improv Everywhere site states:

Can I recreate one of your projects?

We’d rather you come up with your own new projects, but we are OK with independent folks staging versions of our past projects for non-commercial, non-promotional purposes so long as you provide attribution. The Mp3 Experiment is the one exception to this. The Mp3 Experiment is a project that we often tour, and we therefore ask that you do not create your own versions. If you want to have us bring The Mp3 Experiment to your town, contact a local school, conference, or festival and tell them to hire us!

Hiring them isn't going to happen. This would be a low-budget, if not zero-budget production. I don't see how they can legally prevent someone from doing their own mp3 experiment, i.e. I can't see how you can patent, trademark, or copyright the action. Obviously we wouldn't use the name "Improv Everywhere". We wouldn't even use the Improv in the name, because it is not Improv. Quite frankly I don't see how attribution is even necessary, no more than Shakespeare would have to acknowledge Aeschylus. Do you see any legal issues here?

2. There are a couple locations that would be ideal for this in our town. Centrally located public space, people walking around. Are permits necessary for such an activity?

Any other advice, legal or otherwise, is welcome.
posted by allelopath to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
I think you have an oddly entitled attitude about other people's creative labor.

There's a gap between what's legally permissible and what people who aren't assholes would do. That space is typically occupied by respect. I agree that artists steal from each other and have since the dawn of time. But to me, there's a line between playing off a cool idea and stealing someone's work.

In this case, I would say that the basic idea (flash mob controlled by MP3) is fair game. What would be tacky, in my mind, is lifting specific elements of their show as described in that NYT piece—Steve the narrator, the double shirts thing, the narrative arc and ending, etc.

There are lots of fun things to do with that basic concept. My advice is to think up some of your own.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

You're asking this question linking directly to ImprovEverywhere. I'm guessing that they know how to check their referrers, so they're probably going to see it. This could put a kink in your plans.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:22 PM on August 20, 2016

Response by poster: >>I'm guessing that they know how to check their referrers
That's fine. Whatever we do, I want it to be legal, hence the question.

>>I would say that the basic idea ... is fair game.
I would think so too, though I am asking for opinions on this from someone who might know the law better than me.

As far as the specifics of what they do, much of what they do isn't particularly original. They're not the first people to wave glowsticks around in the dark. As far as narrative goes, I don't see it. Yes there is a narrator, but no story. This is in fact one aspect of these productions I thought was lacking in that one action to the next is fairly arbitrary. I was thinking we could actually have a narrative, a story.
posted by allelopath at 5:34 PM on August 20, 2016

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