Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Did Nicole Kidman's 'Grace of Monaco' Go From Cannes Opener to Lifetime Movie? The Movie's Writer Tweets All How Did Nicole Kidman's 'Grace of Monaco' Go From Cannes Opener to Lifetime Movie? The Movie's Writer Tweets All A.O. Scott on Why the New York Times Changed Its Review Policy A.O. Scott on Why the New York Times Changed Its Review Policy The Best Films of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival According to Criticwire The Best Films of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival According to Criticwire The Top-Rated Movies of 2015 So Far: Literary Stories and New Genre Favorites The Top-Rated Movies of 2015 So Far: Literary Stories and New Genre Favorites 'Aloha,' With Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone: Cameron Crowe's Worst Movie, or Just One of His Worst? 'Aloha,' With Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone: Cameron Crowe's Worst Movie, or Just One of His Worst? First Cannes Reviews: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The Assassin" First Cannes Reviews: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The Assassin" First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé's 'Love,' A 3D Art-Porn Mashup First Cannes Reviews: Gaspar Noé's 'Love,' A 3D Art-Porn Mashup First Reviews: Netflix Series 'Sense8' Goes 'Full Wachowski' First Reviews: Netflix Series 'Sense8' Goes 'Full Wachowski' Daily Reads: Why Critics Don't Have to Review 'Game of Thrones,' The Clash of Action in 'Avengers' and 'Mad Max,' and More Daily Reads: Why Critics Don't Have to Review 'Game of Thrones,' The Clash of Action in 'Avengers' and 'Mad Max,' and More The New York Times Is No Longer Reviewing Every Movie That Opens in New York The New York Times Is No Longer Reviewing Every Movie That Opens in New York Meditations on a Mad Man Meditations on a Mad Man Every Shot From David Letterman's 'Late Show' Farewell Montage Every Shot From David Letterman's 'Late Show' Farewell Montage 'San Andreas' Turns 9/11's Tragedy Into Pure Corn 'San Andreas' Turns 9/11's Tragedy Into Pure Corn The Mary Sue Freezes Out 'Game of Thrones' to Protest Yet Another Rape Scene The Mary Sue Freezes Out 'Game of Thrones' to Protest Yet Another Rape Scene Daily Reads: The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, Why Your Favorite TV Show Was Cancelled, and More Daily Reads: The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, Why Your Favorite TV Show Was Cancelled, and More What Critics Are Saying About David Letterman's Final 'Late Show' Episode What Critics Are Saying About David Letterman's Final 'Late Show' Episode Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more Daily Reads: Why No One Remembers "Avatar," the Best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2014, and more First Cannes Reviews: Todd Haynes' "Carol" First Cannes Reviews: Todd Haynes' "Carol" The Children's Book from 'The Babadook' Will Terrify You in the Real World The Children's Book from 'The Babadook' Will Terrify You in the Real World Daily Reads: 'San Andreas' and the Art of Destroying L.A., Why Ferris Bueller is the Real Villain of his Day Off, and More Daily Reads: 'San Andreas' and the Art of Destroying L.A., Why Ferris Bueller is the Real Villain of his Day Off, and More

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



Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome