CW 11 Files Copyright Claim


For April Fool’s Day we posted a video of a fake mission where it appeared that we had lost our judgment and crashed a funeral. We fooled thousands of angry YouTube users into thinking it was real. The biggest fools of all were the CW 11 news team who reported on the funeral as if it actually happened. They didn’t do one bit of research or fact checking, they simply broadcast a YouTube video and reported it as fact (a video from a prank group on April 1st!) I of course uploaded their story to my personal YouTube channel to show the world their lack of journalism skills.

Tonight I got a copyright notice from YouTube informing me that Tribune (the parent company of the CW 11) had filed a copyright claim against the video and that it had been removed. Clearly they want this embarrassment off of the Internets. What’s more interesting is the fact that their original broadcast used our content without permission. They simply put “YOUTUBE” on the screen to indicate that’s where they found the video. So it’s OK for them to air content that we shot and own, but it’s not OK for me to upload their footage of the content they took from me? It’s “fair use” for the news to take a video off of YouTube and broadcast it, but it’s not “fair use” for a citizen to expose their poor reporting on his own content?

Good thing the video has already been uploaded somewhere else:

And if you’d like to download it and keep a copy for safekeeping, you can do that too.

For reference, here is the original hoax video:

And here are our ridiculous outtakes:


  1. Thanks for posting this, keep those “journalists” online for all to see. Awesome funeral by the way, you are welcome to come to mine any time, except I want it to be a musical. It could be “Food Court Musical II: The Tyranny of the Chicken Bone.”

  2. haa haa, awesome! thanks for following up and posting, looking forward to seeing what other brilliant scenarios are executed!

  3. That is brilliant… they have a rival station who could air your version of the story? Too funny! I think that made the april fools joke even better!

  4. Wow! I am always amazed by ever new levels of ridiculousness in media! It’s pretty disturbing actually! But shucks! Can you blame them!? It’s much easier to lift something off youtube than to do actual reporting! Maybe they had a bad day and really needed a story!

    Well! I loved the April Fool’s joke! Keep up your good work!!!

  5. Please do file a counter-notice. CW 11 broadcasting your video without proper attribution is on a much more shaky ground IP-wise than you showing their broadcast for editorial commentary purposes.

  6. IANAL, But as far as I understand the requirements of the DCMA, YouTube should put your video back up if you tell them that the video is not in violation of copyright.

  7. Awesome work! Everything you do is great and absolutely funny. I would soo bill them with a counter-notice. That was very unfair. xoxo

  8. As some people have already said, don’t make them play wack-a-mole with the original clip – you should file a counter-notice because you’ll get your video back. The EFF will most likely to be more than happy to help you out.

  9. Please tell me this television station’s news does state fair coverage or something in a public place some time. They’re really begging for a “best live broadcast ever.”

  10. “Please tell me this television station’s news does state fair coverage or something in a public place some time. They’re really begging for a ‘best live broadcast ever.'”

    I second this idea… IE, please do this!

  11. In Mexico television companies do that a lot, they don’t want their crap on youtube but a lot of shows feature “internet videos” that show a lot of copyrighted stuff. “But it’s on the internet” they say :S

  12. I think this is all gotta stop. Youtube videos are acted as a public domain even though the video was created and is technically owned by someone else! People can just Extract/print screen and just say where they found it and they can publish it! There’s no contact to the producer at all! The same can be said for Google Earth/maps. It is treated as a public domain even though there is an infringement in the whole privacy laws! There’s been no survey to say whether you want your house to be shown via google maps/earth but they put it up anyway. And what about that lawsuit that google said they were going to take when someone drew a 60 foot cock on their roof and they said that it was public domain. NOT private. They didn’t think of blurring it? but they did think of blurring faces after people were caught coming out of sex shops. It’s a load of bull!

  13. Should there be any need to help with any kind of legal costs, I’m sure you have a great number of thankful followers willing to help.

    Keep up the good vibes!

  14. Reading through the irate YouTube comments and their responses, my favourite comeback has to be:

    PhaTboyBLIIM: “its called a FUNeral for a reason”

    Even better is that I don’t think PhaTboyBLIIM has any affiliation with Improve Everywhere. He was just some random YouTube browser.

  15. Crikey, full-on war has broken out on the reply from Jim Watkins… The comments are getting so heated!
    I, personally, think his attempt at covering up the fact that they were ‘just playing along’ is pathetic – I have a six-year-old cousin who’s already figured out that that excuse just makes you look stupid.

    This prank just keeps getting better and better – can’t wait for the next mission though!

  16. What you say about fair use is sooo true. All news agencies post video without permission and web sites and Fat people walking down the street (whenever they do one of those “how fat is america” reports)
    yet they sick the lawyers on the first citizen that publishes something that can be viewed on public TV. Make’s no sense. Cheers to you for fighting back. Vive la resistance!

  17. Seriously, I suspect you have a strong fair use defense here. Just ask YouTube to put it back and they will.

    If you have the inclination, get a lawyer to send them a letter asking them to drop it or you’ll go after them for using your material. Seems simple enough.

  18. For the record, Jim Watkins was just trying to be funny with that blog post. He’s not really trying convince people he wasn’t fooled. It’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s a little weird that a news blog would joke around rather than just post a retraction, but there’s nothing more going on there. (I know because he emailed me about it several times.)

  19. do write them a bill for use of your video.

    why is it so hard to understand that if you wanna get the attention away from something in the web, just STFU. nothing more effective., you can ask Barbra.

  20. They may have the right to have the news footage pulled. Though I think you can really mess with them in a very uncomfortable way since they took your source. Maybe you could CC your videos under a condition they can’t be used commercially. Hell, you could probably make that claim for video you’ve already posted. Then if someone pulls stunt like this and are jerks about it, you can go to town on them.

  21. IANAL but according to the interview with Lawrence Lessig on the Colbert Report, you guys should have joint copyright to the video that features you…

    In any case this is all sorts of funny and sad :D

  22. this makes my fucking blodo boil

    fucking money hungry fucks controlling everythign we do


  23. You have no idea how important your work is. Yes it is funny / sad to see, but most journalists these days are not doing their job. They aren’t asking the important questions, and they are certainly not checking “facts”.

    Thx for this, and I hope what becomes a series of them…

  24. Everything you said sounds correct to me. I assume youtube’s TOS says they get full rights to use your video. If they pass those rights on to the Tribune then they can show your video. If you don’t like it, pay to host the video yourself. Youtube is providing you with a pretty great service for free, and your bitching about someone else falling for your prank giving you 15 min of fame?

    Nothing grants you the rights to their broadcast.

    p.s. last i hears youtube is losing millions of dollars a year

  25. Unfairly, they would have the right to get your posting of their news story on you pulled.

    However the fact that they would even try to do so after stealing your content just beggars belief.

    Either way, you still have the rights to your own video. And posting their coverage all over the web in other places may not be legal, but they’re going to find it impossible to stop. Molehill->mountain of bad publicity for them.

  26. This isn’t an actual lawsuit threat. They are perfectly aware it is fair use; they just think you’re too chicken to counter their copyright claim.

  27. “they have a rival station who could air your version of the story?”

    Seems like a good idea, but why do I have the feeling a rival stations wouldn’t bother?

  28. If you have a video on youtube you no longer “own” it, youtube does. Someone who is so knowledgable on copyright infringment should know that.

  29. Just file a counter-claim with Youtube and get the video posted again. If they file a lawsuit against you for copyright infringement, you can file a countersuit against them.

  30. thenabean, when you don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, you don’t have to post anything. The text “leave a reply” is an invitation, not an order.

  31. This is that whole “Knight for Schoolboard” fiasco again. A guy named Knight did a Star Wars themed campaign commercial that is pretty funny. He posted it online himself and knew people would laugh at it.

    MTV thought so and featured it on one of thier programs and he recorded it and posted it showing only that which was in reference to his video, which they never asked permission of him or YouTube to use, and they DMCAed him and then threatened legal action.

  32. Fair Use laws are pretty ambiguous for this sort of thing… The news show that broadcast your vid is pretty set legally since they were using your IP in an editorial fashion, but likewise I think you’ll be on totally fine legal ground if you take their channel footage and bookend it by commentary from your own group. That will essentially “editorialize” their footage, plus you can add satire/parody to the footage via audio commentary or visual pop-ups, and give you pretty safe grounds for Fair Use protection.

    Not a lawyer, but have worked with Fair Use in the music world for long enough to know it pretty well. Good luck and funny shit!

  33. About the TV station right to show your video without getting agreement, In Youtube TOS, *IF* I understand it correctly, by uploading video to Youtube you automatically give them a licence to use it on their website in its original or even re-edited form. This right is also granted to their business partners (affiliates).

    IMO, this means that if the TV station has a partnership with Youtube they have full rights to display your video without getting your agreement. (But if they are not in a partnership, they have no rights to use the material)

    I have seen Jay Leno showing Youtube videos without credit, so this seems to be common.
    As usual in this world, TOS is usually unfair to the end user.

    Here is the paragraph from Youtube TOS, taken from

    6C. For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions. However, by submitting User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the YouTube Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

  34. File a counter-claim, and then immediately sue them for violating your copyright without permission. Failure to do so might put your case in jeopardy.

  35. I think a lot of you are misreading Jim Watkin’s reply. He’s not saying “we knew about it all the time.” He’s saying, “we went triple-meta!” Which actually sounds like at least a halfway classy way of admitting defeat.

    The DMCA crap, on the other hand, is a much different story.

  36. So I love how on the news clip, at the end when they’re telling you to go online to respond to the story, they pull up their own website and the screen focuses right on a girl in a bikini bottom, and whoever’s running the computer hits Page Up to get it hidden. Stay classy.

  37. It doesn’t matter if you file a counter-claim at this point — the simple fact they called anything into question has driven viewership of the whole thing WAY up! It’s already very satisfying.

  38. This is turning into an increasing problem… the DMCA is being used as a tool of censorship – and youtube’s “censor-first, ask questions later” is playing right into it.

  39. If they really want this story to go away they are not helping their own cause here. This is like putting “Parental Warning” stickers on an NWA album. It doesn’t work.

  40. For three years I’ve uploaded over 400 videos that I produced. I’ve had each account (4) in three years deleted with no reason given other than stating I had violated their TOS. I found out from someone that works at youtube that several videos were being “flagged” by COMPETITORS… of which at the time, I had no idea. So you don’t have to do anything to violate TOS… just get enough people to flag your videos because… it made their cereal soggy or some other lame reason. I’ve since loaded my videos on my own site… now the competition can’t get me deleted and now I can go in on their pages and flag and get them deleted. So far nine and counting. Payback is a bitch. Youtube sucks ass… that’s all there is to it… hope they lose their ass.

  41. You do not have a copyright on any material uploaded to youtube. And even if you do, it is public domain content as soon as it is on youtube. And even if not, well, it’s fair use for the news to use it.

    So, go fuck yourself.

  42. I work with copyright law for a living and I can tell you that this is a perfectly legitimate fair use claim. If I had a law degree, I’d put that in writing. But I have spent the last 5 years working with entertainment lawyers on exactly this kind of issue.

  43. The news station has done nothing wrong. On the other hand, Improv Everywhere has made an illegal recording/copy of the news station broadcast. If this matter were taken to court, I am sure that the news station would win damages.

  44. YouTube Terms of Use Contact states that:

    5. Your Use of Content on the Site

    In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of content on the YouTube Website.

    A. The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law. Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Website and the Content.

    B. You may access User Submissions solely:

    * for your information and personal use;
    * as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
    * for Streaming.

    “Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user’s device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited. User Videos are made available “as is.”

    The Terms of Use can be found at

    The News broadcast is a commercial endeavor and did not ask for your permission in this matter, however they can also ask you to take down their content albeit for the same reason.

    [remember once you give up your rights for free you have to fight to get them back]

  45. Hahaha, yes~ they even took it down from Youtube, what a joke~~ After they take your video and place it on their website~

  46. You must feel so fucken proud of yourselves to be tricking thousands of people. To be playing with thousands of peoples feelings like that. You must feel so fucken Proud to play with there feelings like that huh? Fuck you!

  47. From what I understand about American Copyright law is that, their footage is in fact, not fair use. You have every ability in your rights to sue them for copyright infringement.
    The reason why is because under American jurisdiction, all material created by an author, is automatically under the protection of copyright law whether or not it is actually “officially” copyrighted. Seeing that the dates posted on youtube, and possibly your physical possession of the tapings is enough proof for a court of law.
    Normally, I would say, this is not a big deal, but due to the nature of you exposing a foray of poor journalism on their part, I would recommend, for the sake of all of us, that the videos have their fighting chance of being online as long as possible.
    I would imagine a few lawyers would work pro bono on this work. Seem like a piece of cake.

  48. Stupid of them to not do their research sure but they showed a 5 second clip of your video and directed people to youtube. Well within the terms of fair use I’d say.

    But then so’s your clip of them I guess… If only you owned youtube like they owned their tv station…

  49. The best thing for this is maybe for people to blog/twitter/facebook/etc about this. Get it all over the web. Spread it like a virus. But keep it nice and legal folks.

  50. I think Journalists are desperate for news. You see all the news about neglecting newspapers has depressed them and they are trying to put anything in news. This news Journalist however went to far for not verifying it. The dumb channel for not checking it and again being dumb by claiming copyright infringement instead of correcting there mistake. Pure Fun. After all you April Fool prank went in a gr8 way. Also that TV new channel learned a lesson.

  51. I love you guys. If these ‘journalists’ knew anything about Improv Everywhere, they would have known that this was a hoax.

    Unfortunately, most journalists know little about actual journalism anymore. And don’t worry–if, for some reason you lose your copy of the news clip, hit me up. I downloaded it. ;)

  52. I’m with Avogadro–I think it was a decent attempt by Jim to say “we’ve been had.”

    But for them to file for the video to be taken down is just silly and against the supposed idea that they joked about “being had.”

  53. I was wondering: A lot of people commented that they would be unsubscribing to both your youtube and website channels. How many people actually did?

  54. @Danny,

    I think we added about 3,000 YouTube subscribers the week of the hoax. So, even if some morons got fooled and unsubscribed, plenty of smart folks outweighed them. :)

  55. So, did you file a counter claim? Haha… Good joke, I’m actually surprised so many people fell for it… I mean if they had done research, they’d actually know that it is a joke.

    Seriously… They’d put ANYTHING on the news these days.

  56. News team wins Emmy in the “Petard Hoistage” category.

    Here’s hoping their embarrassing mistake serves as a wake-up call. Well done, ImprovEverywhere.

  57. Whooo-hooo! The success of the April Fool’s Day prank lives on in the form of a cease and desist letter.
    As herp derp says, welcome to the Streisand Effect!

  58. If they were so desperate for a story, they might as well have publicly said “XD Oh he got us! He got us good!” and even try to get an interview with Charlie while they’re at it. Two for one special in news stories!

  59. Oh so you’re calling them morons? Take that fake apology out of your annotations. You’re nothing but an over grown child! Your improv videos like like Frozen Grand Central or Food Court Musical are genious! but pulling pranks on your viewers is just fucken childish. “Oh but it’s April fools! The fools on you!” ahmm. :rollseyes: Childish! Don’t have any more bright ideas, that you have to pull a prank your viewers? You lame excuse of a comedian.

  60. People sure do love stealing our ideas. First NBC has Robin Williams do a grand central freeze, now this. At least NBC had the decency to give us the Sports van for “Best Game Ever”

  61. I bet IE doesn’t get that quick coverage for the real, fun, cheerful and positive things they execute.

    It’s amazingly sad how we’re all so quick to judge without even taking a minute to think logically and do our research.

  62. I am tempted to utter sth like: “This can happen in America only!”
    But this omnipotent Media isn’t an american problem, it’s global.

    maybe you should just sue them….or even better, “true” them!

    Make true what they report and let the world see, what is possible, if the media aren’t beeing held responsible for their broadcast!!

    Good luck furthermore!


  63. “Oh so you’re calling them morons? Take that fake apology out of your annotations. You’re nothing but an over grown child! Your improv videos like like Frozen Grand Central or Food Court Musical are genious! but pulling pranks on your viewers is just fucken childish. “Oh but it’s April fools! The fools on you!” ahmm. :rollseyes: Childish! Don’t have any more bright ideas, that you have to pull a prank your viewers? You lame excuse of a comedian.”

    Yes, they are morons. Stupid people by definition. But the fact that they DID pull the prank on the viewers is a true definition of a comedian. A comedian makes people laugh, it doesn’t matter if you get the joke or not, others will get the joke. Even if no one gets the joke (which in this case, it is not so), the joke will still be funny to at least one person, the comedian.

    It is not childish, this fake mission was well thought out and in making this happen, it just reveals how poor the journalism is now-a-days. Just because information is available at your fingertips in this day and age, it does not mean the information should be taken raw. Who knows what the information actually is? And most school or university frown upon quoting from sites like Wikipedia, as their information are edited by members and even though they might be accurate, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is with definitive proof.

    What you need dude, is to chill out and look at this fake mission on a lighter note. Not only was this fake mission successful, but it revealed more about the world and IE, just like a regular mission. So be thankful for what you have witnessed, and as it’s been stated, it’s suppose to be funny, because it is FAKE. Yes, it is a touchy subject but without violating anyone, or anything (or if you do feel violated by this fake mission, you need to chill, and be less sensitive about such things). Talk about sensitivity, I shall end my note there.

    I hope you’re happy after you typed that post, because to a lot of people, it means nothing.

  64. I enjoyed watching the (fake) mission. Great job!
    Not very wise of YouTube to remove it. This can make people ask themselves questions (as we can see in the comments) and it could mean in the end …. YouTube own (Best?) Funeral?

    Improv … keeping Improv-ing and hopefully your definition of Everywhere includes also the small island called Madeira (where I’m living on).

    Greetz, Don

  65. Wow, this is fantastic. Talk about creating scenes. ;)

    I’m glad you guys are giving this such a light and positive attitude. The joke was really well-done; It was classy because you didn’t actually hurt or embarrass anyone in the process. Except CW11. But that’s their own fault, of course. Keep up the good work! =)

  66. Love how everything comes together nicely. It is unfortunate that many people will not accept the lighter side of things. It is not as if we shove this in people’s faces. It is just there. If you don’t approve or don’t like what your seeing then just turn away. Don’t spoil the fun for every one else.

    In any case, every mission you guys do, brings us all a little closer to a better, funnier and more cautious world. Lesson well learned.

  67. Oh, also, one of our many faithful fans has already resubmitted another video of this little escapade to youtube. Got to love the spreading roots that are your influences.

  68. Unbelievable. I love what you’ve done in kicking over this ant hill… How shameful that the twits at WPIX can’t at least admit their own sins as uncovered (unwittingly!) by your mission. I mean, it’s not as if you invited them to report your story. They picked it and then just lazily posted a YouTube video with no investigation (and without asking for your permission to run your video.) Don’t stop. Keep going! You do fun and important work out there to shake up the sheeple.

    You inspired me to a post!

  69. That’s the real purpose of the DMCA, not to protect content from copyright violations at all, but to give big companies the right to basically bully little guys. It’s censorship. A lot of companies have been known to use the DMCA to silence their critics.

  70. I love it !!! Awesome embarrassment for the news channel. Don’t ya just love it when you get one over on the high and mighty.

    keep up the awesome work!!

  71. great job! i think u guys owe CW11/Jim a great big thank you for the publicity as much as they owe everyonelse an apology for being such screw-ups =D

    I’d love to see the next prank being played on that new channel! haha

  72. Read up on the Youtube ToS. It clearly states that you wave your copyright by uploading your material. So, yes, they were right. They did nothing wrong*, but you did.

    I hope you read the license agreements better next time.

    * assuming proper contribution.

  73. you guys should really file a counter suit for the lies and fool hardy reporting they did and the video they used with out your permission, it would be an example to all news stations that do that, that its NOT okay and that they need to have permission and thier facts straight before reporting a story.

  74. IMPORTANT! Filing a false DCMA claim is a violation of the DCMA. CW11 broke the law when they filed the claim and are subject to a fine. Get a Lawyer, get your video put back up. We need to fight people abusing the DCMA just to avoid embarrassment!

  75. Please, file an counter notice, and, in addtion to that, sue them!
    They have declared in their notice that they made the claim under PENALTY OF PENJURY, so let’s get them to pay up.

  76. Just a quick note about copyright and YouTube.

    When you put content on YouTube you assign some rather open ended royalty-free licences on that content. The news corporation did not need your permission to use the video as you’d given YouTube permission to use it and to extend that permission to others without further renumberation to you. You further granted users of the site to “use”, to create “derivative works” and to “distribute” your content.

    Read the Terms and Conditions.

    Or is it just mock outrage?

    10.1 When you upload or post a User Submission to YouTube, you grant:

    B. to each user of the Website, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, licence to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Website and under these Terms.

    Maybe your use of thiers was fair use, I dunno, but the terms of YouTube are quite clear in allowing your work to be used in that way.
    As the old (in terms of the internet) expression goes – don’t put anything online if you don’t want someone else to use it in ways you didn’t intend.

    As for the prank… well, it’s clearly a prank and the date should have made people think carefully… nice work. :D

    • Will & Mike, read and re-read the ToS.
      Users of YouTube have the right to access the content to the extent of the website functionality. Meaning, pretty much viewing, linking & embedding. In no way are they allowed to use it in their own creations without permission, in no way is it PD.
      CW 11 did both this and that wrong.

  77. They are allowed to air your video because you put it on youtube and it is public domain. It is also considered news worthy so they are permitted to air a clip.

    It was not “bad reporting” on their behalf. You created a fake news story. They aired your fake news story. It happens all the time. Most news is created not found.

    They didn’t report the funeral they just reported on your video.

    They most likely didn’t remove the video out of embarrassment but were notified by Google when their automated software found the copyrighted material.

    But you guys should just continue to violate the law. That’s cool.

  78. I love IE and find it hilarious that you fooled a news station, not even trying to fool a news station, but through the journalists’ own laziness and incompetence. However, now that they got their widdle feewings hurted, don’t risk the future of IE by poking the angry dog in the eye with a stick. There’s no point, and you’ll end up losing cause they’re bigger and they have more lawyers, and it’s we the public that will end up losing the most if IE gets some sort of major cease & desist order.