Hey hey, Chris Knight here :-)
Re: copyright issues regarding the ad itself i.e. it being inspired by Star Wars. I ran it by a LOT of people in the know about this kind of thing before I started producing it and the word back was so long as I didn't use actual elements from the movies, I was okay. That this was being done for non-profit purpose made it all the more safe. I think the hardest part of making this was the lightsaber sound effects: created with an electric razor and a metal bowl. The *one* thing that I wasn't sure about in spite of trying to find its original source was the photo of the red schoolhouse: it was *everywhere* on the net. Everything else used in the commercial was free via Creative Commons or otherwise made freely available.
A few months after the election, George Lucas's educational website dubbed the commercial the "Best Campaign Ad Ever!" and linked to it as recommended viewing for educators. I don't know what that means so far as approving of the ad, but it did make me smile a bit to see that :-)
I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not trying to fight this for the money. I simply want to be respected as the original creator of the material, the same that should be due anyone else who's independently creating original content. That should include being able to include among my "portfolio" how popular my work might have become.
Right now I'm working on a music video for a friend, who is a kick-butt guitarist and singer. It's shaping up to be a pretty neat production (heck I almost got killed by a train while filming it :-) My friend is a longtime musician who's worked hard, paid his dues and he deserves his chance to shine. Posting his video on YouTube was going to be a way to have him be appreciated by the wider world. Unfortunately as things stand right now, I don't know if we *should* put it on YouTube, or any other video sharing site for that matter. Not if he stands a chance of getting co-opted too, as happened to me and many others. I don't see how VH1 wouldn't take his video and air it without any regard to the original artist, if it saw fit to do so.
Like I said, this isn't about being paid money. It's not about money at all. I think some people are assuming that it is. This is about doing the decent and honorable thing by respecting the individual.
I know that Viacom probably feels pretty legally empowered to do whatever they want with this situation. But having a power does not necessarily mean having the wisdom to use that power, or the moral right to wield that power to begin with. And if this is about Viacom wielding that power just for sake of power, then... I don't know quite what to say, other than it demonstrates that they really DON'T care about respecting the individual, at all.
And I don't want to be led to think that of anyone, including a major corporation.