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Fair Use

A while back, a prominent YouTube film critic had all of his videos removed by YouTube for “copyright infringement.” It was a simple case of large corporations bullying around a little guy. There’s nothing I hate more than a bully.

A YouTube user uploaded a video that illustrated how Disney recycled animation templates from cartoon to cartoon. There were times when a set of dance moves or other specific motion would be copied almost detail for detail from one cartoon to another. It was an illuminating video, and it too was removed for copyright infringement. I see it as another case of bullying.

Sorry that I can’t bring it into any other kind of sharp focus, but this is the way I feel. Large corporations with money want to prevent people from enjoying projects compiled by ordinary people because they have a compulsive need to bully people around. I can’t see profit motives behind their actions, because I can’t see any profit impact from such fan projects. For me, it always comes down to bullying, and not just on this issue but on a whole spectrum of politics.

A video production company made a video set called Lots & Lots of Trains. I have no idea what the videos are like. But back in 2007, I saw their commercial for the first time, and I latched onto that commercial right away. The voice-over artist’s over-the-top delivery made the commercial hilarious. And so it became an important meme for me, and other people on the internet feel the same way. Some editors on YouTube put together a re-edited version of the video, “Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots of Trains,” which used looping and other forms of repetition to take the advertisement to new heights of hilarity. Other editors made re-edited versions of the ads for the company’s other two videos, “Lots & Lots of Penguins” and “Lots & Lots of Firetrucks.” They were likewise a riot. At the time I found them, I was very much into saving good videos to my harddrive (and to some extent, I still do this.) Some time later, I found that the videos had been taken down due to copyright claims. Well I don’t take kindly to a thing like that. So I re-upped them myself. And to this day, I host them on my YouTube account.

I got a comment at one point from a user who may or may not represent the actual company. “We suggest you remove this video immediately as it is a total copyright and slanderous infringement on our production. If this is not removed by Friday we will report you to youtube, Marshall Publishing.”

I came back at him with a comment of my own. “There is nothing approaching slander in this video. It is, if anything, a satirical commentary on the narrator’s over-the-top excitement that takes that delivery to new comic heights. As for copyright infringement, have you never heard of fair use? Are we distributing something of yours for free and depriving you of profit? Remember before you threaten anyone with legal action that there can be serious penalties for frivolous lawsuits, including a suspension of your right to file copyright infringement suits for an entire year.” That was six months ago, and nothing bad has happened since. And I stand by my claim.

It’s true that a company that files a copyright suit and is wrong can be punished by having their right to file such suits suspended for an entire year. I learned this talking to one of my parents’ friends at a party. He has experience in copyright law. And he said that if courts would start imposing consequences on companies that filed frivolous lawsuits, they would think twice before they did so. I think that’s a good means of control, and that they should use it.

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