Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The Availability Gap: What We Lose When Netflix Wins The Availability Gap: What We Lose When Netflix Wins Mysteries of Laura Review: Debra Messing on NBC Mysteries of Laura Review: Debra Messing on NBC Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More New York Times TV Critic Writes Article About 'Scandal' Creator Shonda Rhimes as an 'Angry Black Woman' New York Times TV Critic Writes Article About 'Scandal' Creator Shonda Rhimes as an 'Angry Black Woman' Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) Now Streaming: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Beginners' on Netflix Now Streaming: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Beginners' on Netflix 'Ocean's Twelve' Is a Great Sequel About How Hard It Is to Make a Great Sequel 'Ocean's Twelve' Is a Great Sequel About How Hard It Is to Make a Great Sequel Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' Reviews: A Liam Neeson Movie Worthy of Liam Neeson 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' Reviews: A Liam Neeson Movie Worthy of Liam Neeson Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Daily Reads: Alison Bechdel Likes Non-Bechdel Test Passing Movies, Terry Gilliam's Influence and More Daily Reads: Alison Bechdel Likes Non-Bechdel Test Passing Movies, Terry Gilliam's Influence and More 'Transparent' Reviews: Amazon's New Series Is a Game-Changer 'Transparent' Reviews: Amazon's New Series Is a Game-Changer David Lynch on 'Eraserhead,' Women in the TV Industry David Lynch on 'Eraserhead,' Women in the TV Industry Criticwire Classic of the Week: Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion Newspaper Graciously Offers to Run Aspiring Film Critics' Work Without Charging Them Newspaper Graciously Offers to Run Aspiring Film Critics' Work Without Charging Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them Daily Reads: Why Toronto Is the Best Place for Female Filmmakers, In Praise of Fincher's Women and More Daily Reads: Why Toronto Is the Best Place for Female Filmmakers, In Praise of Fincher's Women and More The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go"

From the Wire: Video Essays and Copyrights

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire April 10, 2013 at 4:04PM

Nelson Carvajal writes about what happened when Disney took issue with his viral video about the history of the Oscars.
0
"Argo"
Warner Bros. "Argo"

At our sister blog Press Play, video essayist Nelson Carvajal shares a story that should alarm anyone who enjoys the recent wave of video-based criticism on the Internet. In February, Carvajal made a four minute tribute to the Academy Awards featuring every Best Picture winner from the history of the Oscars. He posted the clip to Vimeo along with a disclaimer: "Fair use is codified at Section 107 of the Copyright Act: Under the fair use doctrine, it is not an infringement to use the copyrighted works of another in some circumstances, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, or educational use." The clip went viral, appeared on numerous websites, and generated almost 500,000 views.

And then two days ago, weeks after it was published and this year's Academy Awards, Carvajal received an email from Vimeo saying his essay had been taken down due to a copyright claim by the Walt Disney Company:

"The video had accumulated nearly half a million views on Vimeo and even made some television appearances on various local news broadcasts. People liked it and were sharing it. But now that has stopped. The Walt Disney Company, in one swift move, not only flexed their corporate litigation muscle, but they did it well after the fact. I understand that digital watermarking on certain clips can spur an online takedown notice but why didn’t it happen sooner? The video’s viral success wasn’t exactly a secret. If the Walt Disney Company found my work to be 'infringing,' why wait until AFTER the Oscar telecast to take it down? Again, there’s no one to answer these questions, because copyright takedown notices are impersonal, automated and cold."

As Carvajal makes clear in his post, he didn't earn a penny off his video; it was made as a scholarly exercise by a critic and fan. One could argue that Disney actually served to profit from his work, since it might have served to bring past Oscar winners to the attention of viewers who would purchase the films (of course, one could also argue that Carvajal's work was embedded on websites like EW.com and Esquire.com, which did earn at least a few pennies off the ad revenue generated by the traffic, but that's just me playing devil's advocate). 

I'm no lover of piracy -- I've written about it before and gotten my fair share of hate mail on the topic (mostly because I think it's generally wrong) -- but I don't see video essays like Carvajal's as piracy. If someone puts "Argo" up on YouTube, by all means: take it down and go after whoever uploaded it. That's piracy. But if someone uses select moments from "Argo" to examine it in a critical way, and they're encouraging people to think about and engage with movies intelligently, and they're not selling tickets to see it, that's something else -- the difference between taking content and giving content new context and meaning that potentially enhances it and its value.

A copyright lawyer might disagree (like, say, one that works for Disney), and by the letter of the law, video essays probably are piracy no matter how many disclaimers you include. But the fact of the matter is some of the best criticism in recent years has been video essays made by editors like Carvajal, Matt Zoller Seitz, Kevin B. Lee, Matthias Stork, and more. They, and others like them, aren't thieves -- they're critics and artists. 

I'll leave you with Carvajal's conclusion, which I agree with:

"The video essay form is a vital filmmaking genre and should be respected, guarded and supported rigorously. Otherwise, we, as a movie-loving audience, will lose the bigger battle of innovation and progress in the ever-changing landscape of film criticism, digital filmmaking and online accessibility."

Read more of "Between Fair Use and Infringement."

This article is related to: From the Wire, VidCritz


E-Mail Updates