Lawsuits typically induce snoring or shouting, but iCraveiCraveTV.com has managed to wring a few laughs from the oh-so-serious battle between the Motion Picture Association of America and iCraveTV.com, a Canadian site that until a recent court-ordered shutdown offered free Web access to live TV programming -- mainly from U.S. television networks whose broadcasts it intercepts and streams online.
"Due to legal difficulties at our content provider, iCraveTV.com, we are unable to bring you programming at this time." The site's notice is posted above a dozen old-fashioned TV sets, each of which bears a network or cable logo that suggests it normally plays programming from HBO, the Playboy Channel, NBC and others, but whose screens are filled with animated static.
Of course, the iCraveiCraveTV site can't match The Onion's wit, nor even Segfault.org, which skewers the tech industry and its gravitas-laden battles over Linux. In fact, the site offers really only one joke: What happens if MPAA president Jack Valenti is right and iCraveTV's programming theft spreads like a "contagion," producing new iCrave-like sites that pilfer from iCrave to re-re-broadcast the re-broadcast shows without paying a dime to the networks?
"We just wanted to add some levity to what has become a very serious subject," says Garner Bornstein, a Montreal Web developer who created the site with Andy Nulman, former CEO of Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival.
And that they do. Taking iCraveTV's toolbar and primary-colored page design, Bornstein and Nullman digitally scribbled their own additions in red, kinder-vandal penmanship: "Newsroom" becomes "propaganda"; "ad information" reads as "save yer $$$." The rewrites connote child's play, just like iCraveTV's business plan, some would say, which assumed that it could avoid paying for TV programming it streamed live to the Web and not even suffer a bite by the piracy hounds at the MPAA.
More abuse follows for the seemingly naive Bill Craig, founder of iCraveTV. A press release on the spoof site declares "iCraveTV is the first generation of Internet parasites; we're the next generation. As an upstart Internet company, we are seeking the maximum content value with the lowest possible levels of investment and effort. What better way than to just swipe someone else's signal?" The press release also promises to "add value" by repackaging its repackaged content with one of three pastel borders, a design also borrowed from iCrave.
Bornstein insists that he and Nulman have no agenda other than making people laugh -- and possibly creating some buzz for thefunniest.com, a humor portal they're launching in the spring -- but what, you may ask, does Craig himself think of all this abuse?
"This proposal has caught us by complete surprise, and we think we should have been consulted first," Craig says, paraphrasing an MPAA comment about iCrave. But seriously, he adds: "I think it's hilarious."