<< has filed a $2 million copyright infringement lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming her cleaning woman character was portrayed on the animated series "Family Guy." The U.S. District Court lawsuit, which was filed Thursday, said the Fox show didn't have the 73-year-old comedian's permission to include her cleaning woman character, Charwoman, in an April 2006 episode.
Besides copyright infringement, Burnett alleges 20th Century Fox violated her publicity rights.
The studio said it was surprised by the lawsuit over what amounted to about an 18-second scene.
"`Family Guy,' like `The Carol Burnett Show,' is famous for its pop culture parodies and satirical jabs at celebrities. We are surprised that Ms. Burnett, who has made a career of spoofing others on television, would go so far as to sue `Family Guy' for a simple bit of comedy," said 20th Century Fox Television spokesman Chris Alexander.>>No kidding.
This effects you too. Whether you're writing a script, drawing a story board, creating a character, doing a voice... this matters.
There is nothing more cancerous to comedy than just the threat of a lawsuit. Lawyers for studios and networks, worried that they'll be called to the carpet for allowing some sort of breach, smooth out the edges of any reference humor in an attempt to prevent suits like this.
It makes it harder to be relevant.
It makes it tougher to do commentary.
It makes writing comedy less fun because you find yourself self-censoring.
Are you willing to not watch the Flintstones because it was an "homage" to the Honeymooners? Willing to avoid Bugs Bunny with his mobster villain that was clearly based on "Jimmy Cagney?" Willing to not enjoy your loving hand painted version of "Winnie The Pooh?" Never watch another South Park?
Because it's all or nothing on this one, folks. Either things are fair game, or they are not. You don't get "Mecha-Streisand" and "Tom Cruise In A Closet" without "Carol Burnett mopping up salty goo in her maid outfit."
It has to go both ways. In the same way Carol Burnett probably made fun of pop culture references in her day (albeit 40s, 50s and 60s references), Family Guy gets to do it too. In the same way that 20th century fox didn't sue Comedy Central for their two-part South Park about Family Guy, Carol Burnett should have done the same.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for Carol Burnett to go from a world of three television networks where she was a star, to a world where Paris Hilton is celebrity royalty. But that's life. That's the passage of time for you.
Today's big deal is tomorrow's "who the hell" and you just have to hope you have saved enough money, and have enough real friends, that when all the flash and heat fades, you're fine.
Pronunciation: 'per-&-dE, 'pa-r&-
1 : a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule
It's for all of us, or none of us. And just because you're done with it now, doesn't mean the rest of us are.