Most of the shadows in this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Question #92038 posted on 02/18/2019 9:16 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My question here is about copyrights.

Bachelor of Provo was just taken down, but it seems pretty clear that it's a parody. Does Warner Brothers have a substantial claim in copyright for this?

Also, if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wanted to, could they have stopped The Book of Mormon musical due to copyright or defamation?

Thanks,

-D

A:

Dear D,

When I first read your question I nearly started crying. I started watching "Bachelor of Provo" not long ago and man, how it inspires cringes! Thankfully though it looks like they'll be back, but with a different title ("Provo's Most Eligible") and without the rose ceremony (source). Apparently a new episode is already up, and I will be watching them once I finish this question! I think the primary reason Warner Bros has this claim is because it isn't a direct parody. I first became familiar with parody copyright when some idiotic company tried to sue the creator of McMansion Hell for copyright stuff. Thankfully it didn't work because of a legal doctrine called fair use, which "lets people use copyrighted works without permission for things like reporting, criticism and parody" (source). The Book of Mormon Musical is most certainly a parody, while McMansion Hell is a combination of parody and criticism. Since "Bachelor of Provo" isn't intentionally mocking or criticizing "The Bachelor" but rather simply copying it, it makes sense that Warner Bros wants them to change some aspects of the show.

If the Church really wanted to sue over the musical, they might (no legal knowledge here so guessing) have had a slight stand with defamation? Definitely not copyright, because fair use would have protected it as a parody. From my limited understanding of the play, including listening to maybe three songs, it doesn't seem like they're completely lying about any LDS beliefs, though maybe exaggerating them or showing them from an outsider perspective. (I mean, if you don't have our view of prophets it does look like we believe in 1978 God changed his mind about black people.) So they definitely could argue back against defamation because they're not outright lying about our beliefs. Then again the Church is super rich and has lots of lawyers so at the very least they could have caused a very long, drawn-out legal battle that would have prevented the play from being performed for quite a while. So basically I don't think they could have stopped it permanently, and it would have caused massively bad PR to the Church, and their current nonchalant stance on it has actually increased respect for us as a religion who can take a joke.

-guppy of doom