The JK Wedding Dance video is interesting because it challenges our social normatives, much like iconic brands do. Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf, and Green (2009) note that in order for something to be spreadable (clearly, this video is an apt example of spreadable media), it must answer a question for us, speak a truth, make sense of something, or touch us emotionally. This video allows us to experience a ritualistically sober ceremony in a non-traditional way, and allows us to do so safely from the comfort of our own home. It shows us that something we may have previously considered socially taboo, is actually fun and completely acceptable. It allows collective intelligence to demolish pluralistic ignorance.
Bowrey (2011) explains that many cases of copyright infringement and related disputes do not actually have the backing of the law that may be assumed. She notes that most people make assumptions about what is actually enforceable, but notes that trademark and copyright laws (and processes) are meant to cover very specific items and not thematic elements (e.g., characters). Additionally, IP laws change with the culture, and interpretation is done with an eye on the current state of culture and conceptualized future progression. This is similar to idea that the medium is the message (Federman, 2004). IP laws are flexible enough to anticipate legal needs as culture and use norms change. By understanding what is underlying and looking for those issues which are not glaringly obvious, IP law can effectively maintain the freedom and cost-effectiveness of amateur material with the commercial and professional, as suggested and called for by Cunningham (2012).
Sony’s brand relies on the notion that using their products, individuals can create whatever they can imagine (Sony Global, 2013). In the case of Jill and Kevin, they imagined a wedding outside the traditionally accepted social norms. They created an individualized ceremony, using Sony’s product (i.e., the song), because they believed they could, and they made it happen: make.believe.
Not only does Sony have a variety of options for promoting their brand, but it seems to be recognized by many consumers that they already have benefited from the video’s popularity. Deighton and Kronfeld (2012) explain that when the video was at the height of it’s popularity, a number of people challenged the integrity of the video, accusing Sony of creating the video to induce sales and reputation reparations. It stands to reason, then, that the perception is that there was an increase in sales, as well as a shift in the artists popularity, despite his domestic abuse arrest. Rather than focusing on the negativity of the personal experiences of the artist, Sony could instead focus on the phenomenon promoted by the video which encourages a happy and unique marriage. Jill and Kevin donated money made from the video’s unexpected virality to a charity in just such a way (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). Allowing the song to be representative of something more positive is one way for Sony to not only take advantage of the popularity of the song and the video, but also do something socially supportive while profiting in non-direct ways. This is one of the possible actions to be taken as pointed out by Deighton and Kronfeld ( 2012). Were Sony to do something to threaten Jill and Kevin, they risk not only alienating customers who purchased the song for their wedding in the first place (i.e., Jill and Kevin), but those who spread the video, as well as those who identify with and support the charity they support with the proceeds. They also risk lash back such as that exhibited by Lenz when she the Electronic Frontier Foundation about her YouTube video (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). And that is not even taking into account a possibly unfounded complaint which, according to Bowrey (2011), is a very real possibility.
Bowrey, K. (2011). The new intellectual property: Celebrity, fans and the properties of the entertainment franchise. Griffith Law Review, 20(1), 188-220.
Cunningham, S. (2012). Emergent innovation through the coevolution of informal and formal media economies. Television New Media, 13(5), 415-430.
Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2012). Sony and the JK Wedding Dance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business College.
Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html
Sony Global. (2013). Sony group brand message “make.believe”. Retrieved from http://www.sony.net/united/makedotbelieve/