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by Dana Harris
September 28, 2011 5:20 AM
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Our Take on the Joe Jonas vs. the Polish Bros. Controversy: Unfortunately, No Law Against Tacky

Detail from screen grabs of Joe Jonas video "Just in Love" and the Polish Bros.' "For Lovers Only." Full image here.

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):

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6 Comments

  • Nadia | August 16, 2013 8:47 AMReply

    Okay, so, when was that video made? In like, the 1920's or something. Joe himself probably never knew that damn thing or probably that the 'Polish Bros' even existed. I mean I didn't even know if they existed.





    Or maybe am I looking at this in another direction. 'Cause they can put the camera's in Black and White.

  • Kat | October 2, 2011 9:12 AMReply

    First, it is rather hard to see the similarities between the two if you've never seen For Lovers Only. For those who have doubts, watch this video and see the comparison for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TumcuDr_jGo&feature=channel_video_title
    There are too many parallels, Just In Love contains max. 3 original shots, the rest of them are all taken from the movie. Of course each of those scenes alone can be probably seen in other romantic movie but the way of capturing them, the way they follow the storyline and mainly the amount of the same scenes is what's clearly makes this video just a banal copy of the movie.

    Second, nothing of this is strictly pointed against the interpret himself. But saying he should be left out of it and not be connected with this? That's gonna be hard.. He's the one who represents this video. If the video was a major success, everyone would praise him. No one would go around and say, wow, the Judelson's new video is awesome. And it is the same with the negative things that come with it. Next time maybe he'll be more careful to choose who he's working with or what label he represents.

  • runnnyc33 | September 30, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    I was initially VERY skeptical of the claims of this music video copying For Lovers Only. I know the For Lovers Only fans are very overprotective of what they view as "their" film. Nevertheless, having watched For Lovers Only before, I decided I needed to see the music video for myself. Full disclaimer: I anticipated walking away siding with the "Jonas" crowd, thinking to myself that the only similarities were Paris and sex... both of which are contained in every French New Wave film ever made.

    With this already formed opinion in mind, I watched Just in Love. As I watched, though, I found myself enraged. I could not ignore the BLATANT similarities between the two. This was not a case of taking thematic creativity from French New Wave, or even from For Lovers Only. Rather the large majority of the music video had direct parallels to For Lovers Only, and to make insult worse, they're frequently shot with the exact same camera angles!

    It's beyond ridiculous, and the Polish Brothers deserve to be recognized as the inspiration for this music video. With what little I know of Mark Polish, I do believe that acknowledgement will be sufficient, and truly, with a following as vast as Joe Jonas' and HMI Productions', is a simple acknowledgement that hard?!

    I'm appalled by the reaction statement of the production company that was just released a day or two ago, and I hope that this situation will be rectified as quickly as possible. Give credit where credit is due, and fess up to what you have done! While I agree that there's probably not a legal leg to stand on, should this issue really have to go that far? How hard is it to say, "Yes, I loved that film, and perhaps some of its images made its way into my work"? Acknowledge it, and don't give bs excuses.

  • Tansy | September 29, 2011 9:26 AMReply

    Thank God somewhere is citing the trailer as a sample. So many sites claim to "not see the resemblance" because they're only using the trailer.

  • Gina | September 28, 2011 7:56 AMReply

    Regardless of whether Jaci Judelson outright plagiarized this film, or merely used these scenes as inspiration, it should be made clear that Joe Jonas himself is not in any way responsible and should not be held liable. He is getting trashed all over the Internet for being a "thief" when the video's treatment was written soley by Judelson and was one of many candidates sent to Jonas and his management for consideration. It's very likely he has never even heard of such an obscure cult film, nevermind having actually seen it. Jaci Judelson is a French film director, and as such it is possible that she was familiar with the film. So far, neither Judelson nor Joe Jonas have commented on the accusation, but I expect that they will soon. The right thing to do would be for Judelson to publicly acknowledge that the video's storyline and all images included within it were her ideas and not those of Joe Jonas. It would be a shame for him to be so wrongly cast in such a falsely negative light 2 weeks before his album release. If anything, he may have a case for litigation against Judelson himself for defamation of character if it is indeed proven that she did copy the film. That said, the video is beautifully done. Judelson did a nice job of capturing the essence of these two young lovers enjoying being together in Paris. Now we will have to see if she can be honest enough to take the responsibility upon herself for any wrongdoing so that Jonas' name can be cleared.

  • Tad Swann | September 28, 2011 7:05 AMReply

    This whole thing just makes me scratch my head and say, "Really?" When I look at the side-by-side comparison, I can think of several other films that include the same images. Two lovers in opposite ends of a bathtub. People holding hands. Stand-up sex against a wall. Hmm... None of these sound particularly original. They are "iconic" images that countless filmmakers have incorporated into their work, either as homage,

    To say that "it’s impossible to believe that Judelson’s French-lover images were wholly original and without specific inspiration" seems reasonable, but to then assume that Judelson drew these images from For Lovers Only specifically is too big a leap of faith. We have no idea if she's ever even seen the film, iTunes success or not. It's more reasonable to assume she drew these images from the countless of other possible sources, including the original source, the French New Wave.