Amy Poehler is not happy with the National Rifle Association (NRA), and neither are some of the people who used to work with her on Parks And Recreation, USA Today is reporting. That’s because the gun-rights organization used a scene from the show of Amy, in character as Leslie Knope, to promote its agenda.
A GIF, for those who don’t know, is a brief (usually not more than a few seconds) video clip, often used to make a point in the form of a meme. There are tens of thousands of them all over the internet, many of them coming from movies and TV shows. Parks And Recreation is no exception: hundreds of scenes from the show, featuring various characters doing various things, often with a caption that has little or nothing to do with the action on the screen, can be found all over the internet.
Such was the case with the NRA on Wednesday night. Using a brief gif of Amy/Leslie pointing at the camera and mouthing the words “Thank you” (GIFs are silent), and captioned with the words “Thank you,” the group addressed radio host Dana Loesch and thanked her for “being the voice of over 5 Million #NRA members.”
— NRA (@NRA) February 22, 2018
Ordinarily, something like this would go unnoticed. After all, GIFs are used millions of times per day across social media. But somehow it was brought to Amy’s attention that her image was being used by the NRA — and she was not having it.
Amy doesn’t use Twitter, but her friend, Parks and Recreation co-creator Michael Schur, does. Amy contacted Michael and asked him to ask the NRA to take the tweet down.
Schur’s tweet to the NRA can’t be embedded here due to its use of inappropriate language. Here’s the edited version of what he tweeted.
“Hi, please take this down. I would prefer you not use a GIF from a show I worked on to promote your pro-slaughter agenda. Also, Amy isn’t on twitter, but she texted me a message: ‘Can you tweet the NRA for me and tell them I said f**k off?'”
Then another Parks And Recreation alum got in on the act. Nick Offerman, whose personal political beliefs don’t line up with those of his character, libertarian Ron Swanson, also had a tweet for the NRA. Again, it can’t be embedded here due to inappropriate language, so here’s the edited version.
“.@NRA @DLoesch our good-hearted show and especially our Leslie Knope represent the opposite of your pro-slaughter agenda — take it down and also please eat s**t.”
So do Amy Poehler, Michael Schur, and Nick Offerman have a leg to stand on, legally? As Forbes reported in 2016, the answer to the question of whether or not copyright holders can force users to take down GIFs is a “murky one.” The legal doctrine of Fair Use would seem to apply in the case of animated gifs, meaning that a court would likely side with the GIF’s user/producer in a copyright suit. However, considering that in this case the GIF used a living actor to make a political point, the doctrine of Fair Use may be laughed out of any courtroom.
Long story short: as of now, it would be up to the good graces of the NRA to take down the offending tweet, which they may or may not do. Conversely, someone in Amy’s camp or Parks And Recreation‘s legal team could sue to have the GIF removed, where their claim faces an uncertain future in the courts.
As of this writing, the original offending GIF is still up on Twitter.