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Our Take on the Joe Jonas vs. the Polish Bros. Controversy: Unfortunately, No Law Against Tacky

Photo of Dana Harris By Dana Harris | Indiewire September 28, 2011 at 5:20AM

The indieWIRE Twitter feed this morning included several readers pointing us to coverage surrounding a Joe Jonas video. Not usually our beat, but it stemmed back to the Polish Bros. filmmaking team and their claim that the video for Jonas' "Just In Love" ripped off their recent film "For Lovers Only."
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The indieWIRE Twitter feed this morning included several readers pointing us to coverage surrounding a Joe Jonas video. Not usually our beat, but it stemmed back to the Polish Bros. filmmaking team and their claim that the video for Jonas' "Just In Love" ripped off their recent film "For Lovers Only."

Our take: "Just in Love" is an uncredited homage to a credited homage. And while that's tacky as hell, it's a stretch to claim cause for legal action.

To be clear: video director Jaci Judelson should have contacted the Polish Bros. Unlike her, they gave full credit to being inspired by Claude Lelouch's "A Man and a Woman." And it's very reasonable, based on both style and some specific scenes, to believe she drew heavily from "For Lovers Only," which was an iTunes bestseller this summer. While no one holds the copyright on two attractive lovers cavorting through Paris on various forms of transportation, it's impossible to believe that Judelson's French-lover images were wholly original and without specific inspiration.

That said: The Polish Bros., by their own admission, created "For Lovers Only" as something of a homage. Stylistically, it's the Cliff Notes of the French New Wave. (One more reason to believe that's where Judelson did her research.) That makes the Jonas video closer to a copy of a copy, not a copy of an original work.

The Wrap's Steve Pond cites potential precedent in a 2004 federal case where Madonna settled with the family of French photographer Guy Bourdin, which had accused her of ripping off the late artist's work in her video for the song "Hollywood." Said Sam Bourdin, "It's one thing to draw inspiration; it's quite another to simply plagiarize the heart and soul of my father's work."

In this case, however, the soul doesn't belong to the Polish Bros. They deserve credit for doing an excellent -- and inspirational -- job of capturing the spirit of the New Wave auteurs. Judelson -- whose work includes a series of ads for dating site Match.com -- deserves blame for not crediting the Polish Bros. for having done her homework.

Finally, here's the evidence. Note, of course, that the comparisons inciting the anger aren't being made aren't trailer-to-video but film-to-video. The "For Lovers Only" trailer is only meant as a representative sample.



And finally, a clever assembly by an enterprising Polish Bros. fan (full detail here):