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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

AGAIN?!? YouTube yanks my Star Wars fan film for "copyright" dispute

Oh geez...

Many of you remember a little over a year ago when YouTube yanked the clip I had posted of VH1's Web Junk 2.0 that made use of my my first school board commercial.

Well, this morning I got another "Video Disabled" e-mail from YouTube.

This time, it's about Forcery, the parody of Misery - about George Lucas being held captive by an overly-obsessed Star Wars fan - that we shot in 2004. Forcery was released in 2005 and I posted it on YouTube the following year, so it's already been on YouTube for about three years now.

If you've seen Forcery, then you know that when Lucas (played by lifelong friend Chad Austin) is driving back to California after writing the script for Star Wars Episode III, he turns on the radio and finds himself listening to the classic song "A Horse with No Name" by America. And the song plays on through when he loses control of his car and crashes in the blizzard, only to be later rescued by his "number one fan" Frannie (Melody Hallman Daniel).

Well, somebody has a problem with "A Horse with No Name" being in Forcery and this morning the following e-mail arrived from YouTube...

Dear kwerky,

Video Disabled

A copyright owner has claimed it owns some or all of the audio content in your video FORCERY - Part 1 of 7. The audio content identified in your video is A Horse with No Name by America. We regret to inform you that your video has been blocked from playback due to a music rights issue.

Replace Your Audio with AudioSwap

Don't worry, we have plenty of music available for your use. Please visit our AudioSwap library to learn how you can easily replace the audio in your video with any track from our growing library of fully licensed songs.

Other Options

If you think there's been a mistake, or you have other questions, please visit the Copyright Notice page in your account.

The YouTube Content Identification Team

Here are some of the reasons why I find this removal to be particularly silly...

1. No one made any money from Forcery. I certainly have not. You have to be a little nuts to make a movie for the first time, not knowing what you are doing and "learning along the way", realizing fully well that you can not see a dime of profit from it. Forcery was a labor of love, and we all had a wonderful experience making it and if I had to go through it again knowing that it couldn't make money, I absolutely would. If anything I lost a few thousand dollars.

2. The complete song of "A Horse with No Name" isn't fully employed by the film, and the vast majority of the time that it's playing, George Lucas is speaking on his cellphone to his producer Rick McCallum. The song has faded into the background and then comes blaring back for dramatic effect when Lucas has his "I've got a very bad feeling about this!" moment. It's not like anyone can make any quality MP3 rip of the song from this clip.

3. As with every song and bit of music that is used in Forcery, I gave attribution for "A Horse with No Name" to musicians (they being the band America) in the end credits. That is something that I have done from the beginning and have always done. It is not at all like I used the song and pretended that I whipped it out of my hat.

4. Forcery could be categorized as a "Star Wars fan film". And the vast majority of fan films - from any milieu out there - use copyrighted elements of some form, be it music or something else. If Forcery has to get yanked because of this, then I would imagine that most other fan films on YouTube and elsewhere are likewise in jeopardy.

5. Come to think of it, the same can be said for most of the other stuff on YouTube as well. Including all of those cute video "mash-ups" using puppies, the Sesame Street Muppets, etc.

So is the rest of Forcery going to also be pulled from YouTube because I used a bunch of Slim Whitman songs?

I'm inclined to laugh about it though 'cuz there's some irony given the timing of this development. And just last night on the phone Chad and I were talking about Forcery and now, well... I guess he's going to have to put up with being in the limelight a little bit more for his terrific portrayal of George Lucas.

Right now I'm mulling it over about what should be done about this. But in the meantime, you can still watch Forcery if you like, in a variety of sizes of Quicktime video. I'll be the first to admit that it's a bit rough around the edges, but a lot of people have called it "hilarious", "whacked" and "like a Troma film but with less violence". So if you feel so led to watch it, enjoy! :-)


AfterShock said...

Oh man...I wonder who actually submitted the cease and desist on it...I mean it has been up on YouTube pretty much since we finished it 3 years ago, so it is a little late for this kind of thing in my thinking. :)

Anonymous said...

I am sure you are not alone in your way of thinking, it really does seem a little late.

AfterShock said...

I wonder what the Statute of Limitations is on something like this?

Geez I wish I knew more about legal issues...hehe :)

Anonymous said...

Who made the copyright claim against you? Do you know at all?

Chris Knight said...

I have some new information and I'm going to be following up on it immediately. This might not be all that bad after all. A *nuisance* certainly, but probably not like what happened with Viacom over a year ago.

When I know more I'll post it :-)

Anonymous said...

Did you credit the composer of the song in your end credits, or seek permission of the publisher to use it in your work?

For non-profit, learning experiences, most of them will give it to you gratis and appreciate being remembered for their vital part of the process.

Giving credit where credit is due, and asking permission is the CHRISTIAN thing to do. Pensez cela.

Ol' You-Know-Who

Chris Knight said...

At the time (2004) I sought permission, but then was told that so long as we weren't out to PROFIT from it, and gave proper credit, that it would be okay. Which was fine since this was never for commercial release anyway, just an idea that was too good to pass up running with :-)

Several years ago Kevin Rubio, the filmmaker who created the classic Star Wars fan film Troops (a parody of Fox's show Cops) used the original song "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle. The online release wound up being one of the most watched films in Internet history. But when a film magazine packaged a DVD of Troops with an issue, Rubio had to edit the film so that there was another version of the song, not the Inner Circle original. Because that WAS a for-profit release of the film.

It's a funny area, but based on everything I was told since yesterday morning, we're okay. And hopefully this will be cleared up soon :-)

Chris Knight said...

Besides, I always give credit anyway where it's due :-)

mtarkhov said...

oh man i just read about this in ur status @ facebook. this really wrong, if u credited all things you know, why they doing it. everyone on youtube making fun videos with songs of various artists, its impossible to say all of them "hey u cant do this!"

Anonymous said...

Well Chris,

How about a status report? Surely you aren't going to lay down the gauntlet on this.

Later . . . .

Anonymous said...

I agree. You can't let them get away with this, Chris.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't have to do with YOU making money from using the song, but rather YouTube making money from ads while people watch your video. This is basic CYA material, and it's becoming an increasing problem for fan films.

I run a fan film news blog, FanCinemaToday.Com, and and last week I wrote up a 5-part Watchmen fan film. Just before I posted the story, YouTube yanked Part 1 because it had a Hendrix song (nevemind that Part 5 has another Hendrix song--that part is still online for some reason). This kind of indiscriminate enforcement is happening more and more often on YouTube, which is a shame.