A Friends-themed video created by Toronto agency Bensimon Byrne for Casey House’s ongoing “Smash Stigma” campaign is no longer there for you.
Described as a “never-before-seen” episode of the hugely popular NBC sitcom, the five-minute video was digitally created using existing Friends episodes with lookalikes and voice impersonators. “Losing Friends” told the story of Chandler being shunned by Joey after revealing that he was HIV positive.
It was unveiled during a media event in Toronto Wednesday, alongside another video recreating an episode of The Office. Both videos were housed on a dedicated website, SmashStigma.ca.
Bensimon Byrne’s executive creative director, Joseph Bonnici, said that the videos had been performing “amazingly well,” with completion rates of nearly 100%, prior to the video’s removal.
Casey House was contacted by Warner Bros., which owns Friends, on Thursday and immediately complied with a takedown order issued under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (see its statement at the end of this story).
“The interesting thing is that they reached out to us and actually provided some incredibly positive guidance into how to keep “Losing Friends” as part of the campaign,” Bonnici told The Message in an e-mail interview on Friday. “So that’s what we are doing now. Talking to the people and hoping to rally them behind this.”
Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to The Message‘s interview requests. A note on the Smash Stigma website reads: “Unfortunately, we have had to remove our adaptation of Friends, “Losing Friends,” due to a takedown notice under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) issued by Warner Bros., the owner of the Friends TV series.”
The Office themed video, “The Toxic Office,” which features a storyline about the show’s character Oscar Martinez being ostracized by co-workers after revealing he is HIV positive, remains on the Smash Stigma website.
Asked what contingency plans are in place if Casey House is ordered to take down that video (The Office is owned by NBCUniversal), Bonnici noted that the campaign also consists of a series of mini-documentaries featuring HIV positive people talking about the stigma they faced in the wake of their diagnosis.
“I think as much as the two episodes are great at garnering attention to this cause, we can’t forget about the real people who face stigma every day,” he said. “That’s the exact reason why we filmed six documentaries on the different lived experiences of those with HIV. We have wonderful sponsors who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in media to this campaign and all of it drives to these stories.”
Official Casey House statement
“Unfortunately we had to remove our adaptation episode of Friends, “Losing Friends” from smashstigma.ca after receiving a takedown notice under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) issued by Warner Bros. Casey House has spoken with Warner Bros., and we are contacting the cast members and producers of Friends to get them on board and supportive of this important cause.
Our (very funny) adaptation of The Office, “The Toxic Office,” is still up on smashstigma.ca as is our docuseries, The Untold Stories of Stigma. We encourage everyone to go there and share the site with your readers/viewers.
Casey House created these adaptations to help educate the world on the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS that is now more deadly than the disease.
This is a great example of how collectively, if we can work together, we can be the catalyst for change that we need.