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DEC
15
3 YEARS

Jimmy Kimmel, ABC Sued For Mixing Up Rabbis in LeBron James Joke

ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel is being sued by an orthodox Jewish rabbi who claims his image was used without consent in a video segment on the show that poked fun at basketball superstar LeBron James' free agency hunt last summer.

The plaintiff in the case is Rabbi Dovid Sondik, also known as the "Flying Rabbi," who has become a YouTube star thanks to his somewhat manic personality.

According to a complaint filed in New York Supreme Court, Kimmel in August was trying to make a joke about reports that LeBron James had met with Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto for business advice. Kimmel claimed that he himself had met with Rabbi Pinto for advice and showed the audience a video of the exchange.

Here's the video clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live. The rabbi shown speaking to Kimmel appears to be Rabbi Sondik,  not Rabbi Pinto.

Rabbi Sondik is now suing Kimmel and ABC for falsely portraying his voice, picture, and likeness as the voice, picture and likeness of Rabbi Pinto. Sondik claims he was made to "look foolish" and presented as a "laughingstock." He claims unspecified damages for the alleged misappropriation of likeness.

One thing to note about the case is that it appears we're on the verge of a new trend.

Entertainment producers are getting into legal trouble by lifting popular YouTube fodder to work into their own creative content. Last month, for example, producers of South Park were sued by the makers of the YouTube viral phenomenon What What (In the Butt) after they allegedly recreated the copyrighted video in an episode of the show.

The new lawsuit claims the Kimmel show spliced together images of the host in his car with an existing video of Rabbi Sondik that producers probably found on YouTube. In the same segment, LeBron James is shown meeting with Rabbi Pinto -- a clip said to be licensed from TMZ. The plaintiff claims this demonstrates that producers essentially had a double standard -- that they knew they needed to license the Rabbi Pinto video but they failed to make any attempt to license the Rabbi Sondik video.

In fact, and this is the first time we've ever seen this, one of the causes of action in this lawsuit is that the Kimmel show breached YouTube's terms of use by taking the clip and failing to obtain YouTube's written authorization. The video-sharing platform restricts its users from taking videos and broadcasting them in other mediums without permission. This seems to be a potential breach of contract claim to be made by YouTube itself, not Rabbi Sondik, but a judge will determine that.

In the meantime, it might be worth discussing whether entertainment companies see YouTube as somewhat akin to the public domain. Given Hollywood's rocky history with YouTube (and Viacom's ongoing $1 billion copyright lawsuit against the company), do producers feel too much entitlement to make fair use of YouTube clips?

We've reached out to ABC and Jimmy Kimmel Live for comment and if we hear anything, we'll update.