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From Nader and Gravel to Assange: There Are Some Parodies Money Can't Buy [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, June 30 2011

If you haven't seen the new fundraising video from WikiLeaks, which plays off an old Mastercard commercial, don't miss it. It's smartly done, and doubly effective given that Mastercard is one of the companies that are refusing to process donations to the whistleblowing site. With more than 100,000 views on Vimeo since being posted a few days ago, you have to give Julian Assange credit for knowing how to make a viral video.

What Does it Cost to Change the World? from WikiLeaks on Vimeo.

And if you think Mastercard is likely to sue WikiLeaks for copyright infringement, leaving aside the perverse Streisand effect that would ensue, that story has already been written. Back in 2000, third-party candidate Ralph Nader made this commercial, tweaking both major party candidates for being beholden to big money donors and special interests. He was sued by Mastercard, but four years later won a summary judgment ruling that said his parody was fair use.

And here's former Senator Mike Gravel, using the same "things that money can't buy" frame for an ad his campaign made in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary:

Bill Hillsman, the Minneapolis ad-whiz who made the original Nader "Priceless" parody ad (as well as doing Jesse Ventura's and Paul Wellstone's breakthrough TV commercials back in the 1990s), tells me that he thinks the WikiLeaks version is "pretty good." He adds, "I might have been more specific about the action they want people to take (although they did show someone cutting up a MasterCard)." Noting the past controversy with MasterCard, he also predicted: "It won't be as controversial as the Nader ad, since the courts slam-dunked the MasterCard suit vs. Nader and clearly allowed parodies of the commercial approach, but mostly because they don't seem to be using that campaign as omnipresently as they were in 2000."

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