The adult industry could be in a lot of trouble if CC3 Entertainment has anything to say about it. The company, which owns the copyright to The Three Stooges (the subject of a surprisingly funny new theatrical release) is threatening legal action over the new pornographic parody Not the Three Stooges XXX, claiming that the new film from director Will Ryder infringes on their copyright. The mildly NSFW trailer clearly shows three porn stars – Evan Stone (Larry), James Bartholet (Curly) and Anthony Rosano (Moe) – playing the iconic characters for "nyucks," and something that rhymes with "nyucks," but the title clearly has the qualifier "not" in it. Will that be enough to avoid a lawsuit with potentially catastrophic consequences for the adult film industry?
Mainstream motion picture parodies have been a mainstay of the adult industry since the 1970's, but have experienced a sweeping resurgence in recent years. Struggling to combat the influx of cheap, often free adult material on the internet, not to mention the ongoing threat of piracy, the adult industry turned to the novelty of porn parodies, often with remarkably high production values (for porn, at least) to stimulate their marketplace… financially. Not the Three Stooges XXX director Will Ryder is popularly considered the man responsible for the industry's emphasis on parody: his 2007 feature Not the Bradys XXX lampooned the iconic "Brady Bunch" television series, cleverly ignoring the usual pornographic convention of pun-centric titles (A Clockwork Orgy, Edward Penishands) in favor of simply calling the original property out by name, and clearly indicating in the title that his production was not the actual property itself. The move allowed for name brand recognition on the shelves, and also for the actual film to hew closer to the original source material than was usual for a XXX-rated film.
But was it really that clever? C3 Entertainment doesn't think so. Hollywood Reporter has brought the potential lawsuit to our attention, illustrating C3's executive vice-president and legal counsel Robert Benjamin's correspondence with Ryder's representation. "Your client is not the first to try to use the First Amendment as an excuse to wrongfully capitalize on The Three Stooges Brand," Benjamin wrote, referring to a landmark infringement case in 2001. Comedy III Productions, Inc. v. Gary Saderup found the defendant, who had been selling lithographs and t-shirts of the original Three Stooges' likeness, guilty of infringing upon the defendants' rights of publicity, but is this really the same thing?
Not the Three Stooges XXX is soitenly a direct references to the Stooges themselves, but does not actually use the likenesses of the original cast. Free speech cases involving the adult industry have been successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court before (didn't you see The People vs. Larry Flynt?), and the case of Roxbury Entertainment v. Penthouse Media Group set a clear legal precedent, stating that an actual case for infringement would necessitate that the offending material actually claimed to be the genuine article. Putting "not" in the title seems to prevent that, although it could be argued that the ploy is so blatant that it feels like cheating.
Benjamin, whose company technically only owns the trademark on a Three Stooges brand of beer (which they have extended into other arenas), claims that their suit goes beyond mere copyright infringement, including those rights of publicity they fought for back in 2001. They could also claim that this pornographic parodies disparages their brand. If any of Benjamin's accusations makes it to court, it could have an enormous impact on an industry which currently depends on the novelty of pornographic parodies – like the upcoming Avengers XXX – to help sustain itself in a rapidly changing market.
It's but the latest danger to the adult entertainment industry, which has recently suffered setbacks due to Rick Santorum's attempts to bring the issue of pornography into the presidential race, as well as a recent Los Angeles law requiring all performers to wear condoms. The latter may sound like a good idea in theory, but issues with actual enforcement and industry-specific performer safety concerns have led to speculation that the entire pornographic industry could be forced to move out of Los Angeles altogether.
CraveOnline will be back with more Three Stooges news after we cancel our production of Not Not Another Teen Movie XXX.