Ignorance About the DMCA, Fan Films and Fair Use

It’s been quite a week for director Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar. After raking up close to 10 million views on YouTube in just a couple of days, Kahn’s Power/Rangers “fan-film” was finally pulled off YouTube. (Vimeo took it down within a day of its release).

Lots of fans of that film are naturally complaining, saying things like YouTube and Vimeo “caved” in. Or saying YouTube isn’t being consistent because of the millions of other potentially copyright-infringing videos on YouTube that are still up. Kahn and Shankar have claimed this is a “sad day” for fair use, free speech and fan freedom.

But here’s are a few things all of these people need to keep in mind.

  • Free speech does not give one the right to take another person’s intellectual property and do whatever you want with it.
  • YouTube and Vimeo are abiding by the law. Based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), if a copyright holder requests that an infringing video be taken down, by law they have to comply, lest they be subject to severe legal and/or financial ramifications. They are not “caving in”.
  • Most copyright holders (like DC and Lucasfilm) that allow fan films to remain online do so because 1) those films are made by true fans and 2) those films fit within the brand of the original art. I guarantee you that if someone made a series of X-rated “fan” films of Luke and Leia having an illicit incestual affair, Disney (the owner of Lucasfilm) would have it taken down. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Neither Kahn nor Shankar are fans of the original Power Rangers (by their own admission). So how can they call it a “fan” film.
  • Fair use is a murky area that requires a film to meet a number of parameters to be protected as such. The case for this film as “fair use” is very, very weak (as I stated in my last post).

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. As cool as that film was, we filmmakers should be championing Saban’s right to pull it. We may hate that they pulled it down, but we should be defending their right to do so. Otherwise we set a precedent truly more dangerous than what Kahn is claiming Saban is setting by pulling a video that puts their intellectual property in light they don’t like.

What say you?

One thought on “Ignorance About the DMCA, Fan Films and Fair Use

  1. This is an interesting story that I hadn’t heard about until now. I ran into a few Fair Use complications of my own in recent times but luckily stumbled upon a really great book that has helped me to no end.
    Clearance & Copyright by Michael Donaldson. http://www.donaldsoncallif.com/.
    This is a fantastic book for the indie filmmaker to have in their collection. I doubt there can be a more reliable and comprehensive source of information on this stuff. The recent 4th edition even allows for downloading contracts that can be edited and examples of various other forms.
    Just amazing.

Comments are closed.