Two-time Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke had himself a pro-medical marijuana parody hit on YouTube with "You're the Law that I Want (Yes on 2)." Set to the song "You're the One That I Want" from the musical Grease, Berke and his crew dance and sing while urging Florida voters to yes on Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana.
The four-minute parody racked up 300,000 views and was featured on Comedy Central, Buzzfeed, and the Huffington Post, according to its producers. But it's been pulled by the site, after the Warner/Chappell music company claimed it violated its copyright.
"It's completely ridiculous," Berke says in a release. "Parodies are 'fair use' and a protected form of free speech."
Berke argues that as a parody, the video is fair game. YouTube, as a publisher, also has the right to take down whatever content it wants, but Lee Molloy, one of the video's producers, points out that the video-sharing site is full of parodies, including others of the same song. There's even one called "You're the Whore That I Want," he said.
"You ask yourself, 'Why are they particularly picking on us?'" Molloy says.
Molloy thinks it's political. "That's the reason why they've decided to do this," he said, "because we're supporting medical marijuana."
(YouTube's media team hasn't responded to New Times request for comment; we'll update when they do.)
With just weeks remaining until the November 4 election, a 30-second version is still airing on CNN, ESPN2, and Comedy Central in South Florida. But with so little time before the election the group fears the YouTube removal will largely bully its message out of the political conversation.
"It's basically a suppression of our free speech," Molloy said. "And the message -- that we want to see Florida voters vote yes on 2."
Update: After publication, a YouTube spokesperson contacted Riptide and provided the following statement:
"When we receive a copyright claim, we remove the content promptly in accordance with the law. We have a counter-notification process in place if a user believes a content owner has misidentified their video, and we reinstate videos if a user prevails in that process or when we receive a retraction from the content owner that submitted the original notification."