The American election season has almost come to an end, leaving in its wake a large volume of creative expression by the campaigns and by citizens. Viral videos have been created and circulated by candidates and their supporters since the primaries, but a recent video provides an interesting lesson in intellectual property management.
Many would remember the series of “wassup” advertisements put out by Budweiser starting in 1999 (YouTube – Wassup). You may have completely forgotten about it until this week, when a video supporting Barak Obama circulated over the internet (YouTube – Wassup 2008). It uses the same general concept, the same “look and feel” and the same actors. It was made by the same producer who did the ad for Budweiser. Which raises the question of why Budweiser would let something so closely associated with its products be used in such a partisan way.
The fact is, they didn’t. According to BusinessWeek, Charles Stone III originally licensed the wassup idea to Budweiser for five years of use for $37,000. Many said that he was almost giving it away at that price, considering how much mileage Budweiser got out of the idea. But nine years later, he pulled together 50 volunteers and used the idea to strongly promote his candidate.
So what does this have to do with law? It provides a good lesson on why certain rights in intellectual property licensing should be carefully considered. Budweiser probably does not want to be associated with a particular presidential campaign and likely wishes it had bought the rights outright. Stone, on the other hand, is pretty thrilled to have kept the rights and now has the opportunity to coattail on the huge Budweiser publicity machine to spread the word for his candidate.
Food for thought.