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Stephen Colbert makes McCain exciting with Fair Use

On June 3, 2008, the day that Barack Obama became the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic party, Republican presidential candidate John McCain gave a speech to a small group of followers in front of a green screen. The next day, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert declared this a challenge from McCain to edit the images on that green screen in order to "make him seem interesting." Practically a national call to expand Fair Use.

Colbert's challenge sparked a quickly growing and often outstandingly creative meme, known as the "Make McCain Exciting" project. This meme offers a strong argument for Fair Use as makers reframe segments of this speech with images from popular culture in order to comment on McCain's own words. The meme also often draws attention to McCain's disconnection with the culture that has harnessed its power to create such widespread commentary. See my personal favorites below.

Pulp McCain

This video brilliantly inserts John McCain into the final scene of Pulp Fiction, and juxtaposes the words of Samuel L. Jackson's character, Jules Winnfield, with the speech in order to create the illusion of a direct conversation between McCain and his critics. Note the moment that Jules refers to McCain as "the evil man." An Obama '08 logo is the last image of the video, but the video is unaffiliated with the Obama campaign.

Night of the Living Candidate

This video takes McCain's words and the image of his face and inserts it into a scene of George Romero's 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead to underscore fearmongering within his speech while maintaining the structure of a news report from a Republican rally. The words to the speech replace the groans of the McCain zombie, and the crowd of other zombies become the audience of the rally.

McCain Wizard of Oz

This video takes the image of McCain's head, and turns it into the infamous face of the Wizard of Oz. The reactions of Dorothy and the gang to McCain's words show that the disjointed uncaring government that he speaks about is himself.

Gray Ambition

My personal favorite, Gray Ambition, inserts John McCain's head onto the dancers featured in the video for Madonna's "Vogue." The video is humorous and insightful, and introduces the notion that this speech is a part of a posing act -- a way for McCain to claim that his ideas are in vogue with the American people.

Our recent publication Recut, Reframe, Recycle looked into the trends and activity of user-generated content that quotes from copyrighted material. We here at the Center for Social Media are so passionate about the ability for DIY video makers to claim Fair Use when it is applicable, that we are gearing up to release our Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video. This will be available in the coming weeks on our website, and will provide a clear guide for online video creators to understand what is and is not within their rights to quote. Keep your eyes peeled!