The Joy of Porn Parodies: A Holiday Challenge

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forrest_965892_1950343[1]When you think porn, I bet the first thing that pops up isn’t the Federal Antidilution Act. It is, however, if your day job is the practice of intellectual property law. Indeed, the intersection of porn, parody, and the First Amendment has inspired a holiday party challenge, described below. But first, a little legal background from your attorney-scribe, who has sacrificed billable hours to bring you this Yuletide cheer:

We I.P. lawyers have our favorite quirky cases–the racy ones you’d hesitate to bring home to Mom, the goofy ones that tap into that special brand of humor most commonly associated with junior high school boys. (As many women will attest, there is a 7th-grade boy lurking within most adult males. We’re talking about the ones who can’t resist using the phrase “pops up” in the first sentence of this post.)

If copyright is your field, may I offer for your consideration the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal’s opinion in JCW Investments v. Novelty, Inc., 482 F.3d 910 (7th Cir. 2007), which memorably opens:

Meet Pull My Finger® Fred. He is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants. Fred is a plush doll and when one squeezes Fred’s extended finger on his right hand, he farts. He also makes somewhat crude, somewhat funny statements about the bodily noises he emits, such as ‘Did somebody step on a duck?’ or ‘Silent but deadly.’

If, instead, your realm is trademark registrations, you’ll say Kaddish  for the late  STEALTH CONDOM, the all-black model marketed with the tag-line: “They’ll Never See You Coming.” Alas, Northrop–of Stealth Bomber renown–was not pleased, and the registration eventually died.Nailin-Paylin[1]

But trademark dilution is where where humor and free speech meet, mainly at the intersection of famous brands and parody. And let’s face it, nothing taps into that 7th-grade humor more effectively than parody titles for porn movies. While occasionally those titles (and content) purport to spoof current events–such as Tiger’s Wood and Who’s Nailin Paylin?–the usual target is a real movie.

(Ah, glad you returned from those links. Re-read the last couple sentences so that you can remember where you were.)

As I have advised authors, you cannot copyright a title, and the only book titles eligible for trademark registration are ones that have been used in enough separate publications to become genuine brands. For example, the Penguin Group owns the trademarks for various iterations of COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO and Wiley Publishing owns the trademarks in the FOR DUMMIES series.

ugo-pulpfictionporn_480x640[1]And thus the porn parody title. For those of you unfamiliar with this sacred realm of the 1st Amendment, the porn industry has grown of fond of coming up with risque take-offs of famous movie titles for their X-rated productions. That list includes “Shaving Ryan’s Privates,” “Pulp Friction,” “The Loin King,” and, of course, “Riding Miss Daisy.” Not to be overlooked are such X-rated cinematic classics as “American Booty,” “On Golden Blonde,” “Breast Side Story,” “A Beautiful Behind,” and (especially for us lawyers) “Legally Boned.” The Top 20? Here’s one list.

All of which got me thinking. Because the porn industry in San Fernando Valley is usually about a year behind the film industry just 14 miles to the west in L.A., most of the 2013 Hollywood releases have not yet garnered a porno with a knock-off title. So here is an idea for your next holiday party:

When things get a little dull, toss out this challenge: Invite all true believers in the First Amendment to create their own parody porn titles for one or more of the 2013 films that might soon be nominated for one of this year’s Academy Awards. Out of fairness, we must remove from consideration the Coen brothers’ latest release, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which certainly qualifies here as, well, low hanging fruit.

To get your party rolling, here are some of the 2013 releases: “Man of Steel,” “Iron Man 3,” “This Is the End,” “Fast and Furious,” “Now You See Me,” “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Have fun, and let me know the winning title.

2 Comments
  • Rick Plank
    February 15, 2017

    Hello Mr Kahn,

    I own a glass functional art company that makes hand blown exotic glass pipes. We do a line of sculpted character pipes that parody Star Wars and a variety of other cartoon characters. Would our parody pipes be protected under the same laws as the film parodies?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    Best regards,
    Rick
    818-252-4300

    • Michael Kahn
      February 15, 2017

      Interesting question, Rick. As you might imagine, in the world of law, one man’s parody is another man’s infringement. To answer your question, I’d need to see some of those pipes.

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