With the ability to cheaply and quickly create your own videos and post them online for all to see, the chance of two people tackling the same subject matter in a similar way at the same time with no knowledge of the other is most likely quite high. Still, it’s not hard to do a quick YouTube or Google search for what you’re looking to make to see what else is out there that people have already done.
Usually, it’s already been done but it’s either terrible or ripe for more riffs – meaning you can offer a fresh angle on it that allows both versions to live out there in the world fair and square.
Other times, though, there’s just plain old plagiarism; and determining which is just a similar riff on the same topic or creative theft can be difficult.
So, here’s your chance to take a look at some evidence and help decide whether CollegeHumor’s Original comic sketch “Foursquare for Sex” is merely similar to ThesePeople’s comic sketch “Whoresquare” or if it’s too close to be just a coincidence.
CollegeHumor is an entertainment website that has provides both in-house and user-generated content. In their FAQ, they answer the question asking about what happens when an average user uploads content:
The key phrase to note: “[o]ur editors go through all of the submitted content…”
The time that each video appeared on the site for the very first time should be looked at. Were the two videos uploaded roughly around the same time, it could mean something different than if one had already been online for some time.
ThesePeople’s “Whoresquare” timestamp:
CollegeHumor’s “Foursquare for Sex” timestamp:
The videos themselves:
Please visit CollegeHumor’s “Foursquare for Sex” to view their video as their embedding feature is not working on this WordPress site.
Based on the evidence, we can deduce that:
- ThesePeople’s “Whoresquare” video preceded CollegeHumor’s “Foursquare for Sex” video by nearly seven months, thus being the first of the two to hit the web.
- “Whoresquare” was also uploaded and accepted onto the site by the CollegeHumor team
- CollegeHumor states in their FAQ that they watch all content.
- CollegeHumor’s editors watched “Whoresquare” prior to “Foursquare for Sex” being added to the site.
We – myself and Matt Cassatta, who together made that ThesePeople video – brought all of this to the attention of CollegeHumor in an email. The gist of their response:
We want to assure you that CollegeHumor’s video was not copied from your video and that any similarities are mere coincidence and nothing more. CollegeHumor takes intellectual property very seriously and we would never take someone’s work and copy it for purposes of creating our own video. The writer of our video has not seen your video, either on CollegeHumor or YouTube or anywhere else. As you point out, the Foursquare app is ripe for parody, especially in a sexual manner, and any such parody would likely have bits about “checking in”, “tips” and “becoming Mayor” as those are well known parts of Foursquare. We don’t, though, find the videos as a whole substantially similar.
Having now watched your video, we appreciate it and enjoy it.
Their stance is not only that the writer never saw our video, but that they’re not even similar. That last line even implies that the entire group at CollegeHumor only now saw the video, which seems to run contrary to what they advertise in their FAQ.
The only thing we asked for in our email to them was recognition of our video. Not an apology, not a retraction of their content, just merely an acknowledgment that, indeed, we had gotten there first.
But perhaps we are wrong. Perhaps it’s all mere coincidence. Perhaps it’s just one of those things.
What do you think?