George Santos Files Very Silly Copyright Lawsuit Against Jimmy Kimmel Over His Cameo Videos

Techdirt. Stories filed under "fair use" 2024-02-20

Former Rep. George Santos, kicked out of Congress last year for being an irredeemable liar, has spent his time since expulsion pulling in the big bucks making videos on Cameo for anywhere between $350 and $500 a pop.

Last year, Senator John Fetterman made news when he got Santos to record a Cameo video trolling disgraced, indicted colleague Senator Bob Menendez who refuses to resign. That video had Santos urging “Bobby” to “hang in there.” Earlier this month, Santos admitted that he’d surpassed 1,200 videos in the last few months, bringing in a few hundred thousand dollars.

Apparently, a little over a dozen of those came from talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who started a segment in December called “Will Santos Say It.” Kimmel submitted wacky Cameo requests and played some on the show. Back in December, Santos complained about this — mainly that he wasn’t getting paid enough for the videos.

Over the weekend, Santos actually sued Kimmel, along with ABC/Disney, claiming copyright infringement. Because, I’m sure, Disney doesn’t employ any copyright lawyers who will eat Santos and his lawyer for lunch and spit out the remains into bowls made out of Mickey Mouse.

The lawsuit is not good. The crux is that Kimmel (1) misrepresented himself and (2) purchased videos under a “personal” license instead of a “commercial” one, and therefore this is both fraud and copyright infringement.

It is likely neither.

On the copyright side, Kimmel has a strong fair use claim. He used them for commentary and criticism without harming the market for Santos’ Cameos (in fact, they likely increased it). The fraud part is just nonsense. Santos didn’t lose money out of this, he made money.

The lawsuit undermines its copyright claims by inserting Kimmel’s commentary, which helps to show how this is fair use (and amusing):

KIMMEL: Yeah so now this Cameo thing, according to George, is really paying off. He claims he’s made more money in seven days than he did in Congress for a year. And part of that money came from me. I sent him a bunch of crazy video requests because I wanted to see what he would read and what he wouldn’t read, and I showed some of them on the air on Thursday, um, and now he’s demanding […] to be paid a commercial rate. Could you imagine if I get sued by George Santos for a fraud? I mean how good would that be? It would be like a dream come true. So since I started buying his videos his rates went way up to $500 a piece. He should be thanking me for buying these videos. But I have a big stockpile you want to see one? Again George had no idea these requests were from me, I just wrote them and sent them in. So “Will Santos say it?” Here we go […] [CAMEOS #4 and #5 were then published]

The lawsuit also includes the five prompts that Kimmel (under made-up names) submitted to Santos that were later aired. Kimmel says he submitted more, and it’s unclear what happened with the others, if Santos’ legal threat made them go away or if he even made them.

Still, for your enjoyment, here are the prompts:

a. On or about December 6, 2023, at approximately 4:46 p.m. Kimmel, misrepresenting himself as “Chris Cates” made the following fraudulent representation to Santos: “George please congratulate my friend Gary Fortuna for winning the Clearwater Florida Beef Eating Contest. He ate almost 6 pounds of loose ground beef in under 30 minutes – which was a new record! He’s not feeling great right now but the doctor thinks he will be released from the hospital soon. Please wish him a speedy recovery!” (“Fake Request 1”)

b. On or about December 6, 2023 at approximately 4:55 p.m. Kimmel, misrepresenting himself as “Jane” made the following fraudulent representation to Santos: “George please congratulate my mom Brenda on the successful cloning of her beloved schnauzer Adolf. She and Doctor Haunschnaffer went through a lot of dogs in the trial runs but they finally got it to stick. Tell her to give Adolf a big belly rub for me!” (“Fake Request 2”)

c. On or about December 7, 2023, at approximately 12:18 p.m. Kimmel, misrepresenting himself as “Ron” made the following fraudulent representation to Santos: “My name is Ron. Please tell my wife to call me George. Not George my name is Ron. You are George. Just tell her to call me George. But again Ron. I haven’t seen Swoosie or the kids since my disco birthday and it’s not fair. She says I burned down the shed shooting off fireworks but I was trying to scare a bear away. It isn’t fair. I love my Swoosie and I just want our family together on Christmas or if not that Valentimes Day or Flag. Watch out for bears.” (“Fake Request 3”)

d. On or about December 7, 2023, at approximately 12:32 p.m. Kimmel, misrepresenting himself as “Uncle Joe” made the following fraudulent representation to Santos: “George can you please congratulate my legally blind niece Julia on passing her driving test. They said she couldn’t do it – even shouldn’t, but she’s taught herself to be able to drive safely using her other sense. She’s not a quitter! That said, the day after she got her license, she got in a really bad car accident so if you could also wish her a speedy recovery that would be amazing. She’s in a bodycast and is a very bummed out – but with help from Jesus and President Trump, soon she will be back on the road!” (“Fake Request 4”)

e. On or about December 7, 2023, at approximately 12:26 p.m. Kimmel, misrepresenting himself as “Christian” made the following fraudulent representation to Santos:: “Hey George. My friend Heath just came out as a Furry and I’d love for you to tell him that his friends and family all accept him. His “fursona” is a platypus mixed with a beaver. He calls it a Beav-apus. Can you say we all love you Beav-a-pus? He also just got the go ahead from Arby’s corporate to go to work in the outfit so we’re all so happy for him to be himself at work and at home. Could you also do a loud “Yiff yiff yiff!”? That’s the sound Beav-a-pus makes as Beav-a-pus. Thank you so much.” (“Fake Request 5”)

The presence of a recently disgraced Congressman makes some of those videos seem newsworthy on its own, adding to the fair use argument.

As noted above, Disney has a few lawyers who understand copyright. It seems likely that Santos is going to get ripped to shreds in court.