Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman has enlisted the help of a popular Simpsons character in his latest political attack ad against opponent and tv personality Mehmet Oz, in which he unfavorably compares Oz to Dr. Nick Riviera, a snake-oil salesman and charlatan on The Simpsons.
Fetterman’s ad was tweeted out by his verified account and quickly pinned to the top of its feed. Accompanying the ad, Fetterman posted:
Before there was Dr. Oz, there was Dr. Nick. They say the Simpsons always predict the future – and once again, they nailed it.
The way Fetterman uses copyrighted content in the ad feels like a very modern play in a very old game. One can’t help but wonder about the legality of using the scenes from The Simpsons in such a way. Sources close to the situation have said that Fetterman didn’t reach out to Disney to ask to use the character. So, why hasn’t Disney had the video taken down? The video was posted more than 20 hours ago (at time of writing) and Youtube strikes have certainly been issued much faster and for less in the past.
And what rights to artists have to refuse the use of their creations by politicians? For years, musicians have been demanding that politicians not use their songs while campaigning. What kinds of rights do visual artists have in protecting the use of their original creations?
If, however, this type of use is protected and legal fair use, might we see similar strategies used in the future? Will Spongebob and the Minions start promoting political causes without authorization from their IP owners? Certainly the comparisons between animated characters and real-life politicians don’t start and end with Dr. Oz and Dr. Nick.