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Viacom will steal your film
July 22, 2008 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Now Viacom will STEAL your movie Viacom has claimed ownership of an independent filmmaker's film and now she has to fight them for it. They allow her to leave it on YouTube but they claim ownership and they get to collect data on who's watching.
posted by njohnson23 (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
ARRGGGHHHH this sort of thing pisses me off!

I'm dealing with a lot of similar cases in NOLA right now, where Contractors can put a lien on someone's property just by getting a form notarized and then filing it with the council's office. It can be done in under an hour with no questions asked as to it's veracity. Getting the lien taken off, however, takes weeks or months and probably won't work, even if the lien is clearly fraudulent on it's face.

What is the possible basis for laws which allow party X to take property away from party Y, and then put the burden of proof on party Y as to why the transaction shouldn't have happened?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:37 PM on July 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


Copyright is only as strong as the money you are willing to spend in court to defend it. It stands to reason, then, that copyright really only benefits artists (or their owning conglomerates) with the deepest pockets.

What is this woman going to do? Take Viacom to court?

Best of luck with that.
posted by Avenger at 2:37 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


What is this woman going to do?

I think she's taking the right approach, actually -- complaining loudly, getting her story picked up by Consumerist and MetaFilter and God knows who else...maybe she'll be able to get someone bigger involved, like the EFF. I'm sure Viacom would love to avoid the PR scandal.
posted by danb at 2:39 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


/worst of the web
posted by acro at 2:40 PM on July 22, 2008


Assuming the details are all accurate, this seems like a far greater example of the fuckups in our litigation system than anything the "frivilous lawsuit" people talk about. If I'm reading this correctly, Viacom just claimed ownership of someone else's work, with no evidence or reasoning, and YouTube agreed... because Viacom said so?

The DMCA would work a lot better if it allowed the big guys to be sued for actions like this. I hope the filmmaker can successfully file a claim against both Viacom and YouTube for facilitation this.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2008


I predict a MetaFilter post 50 years from now...

"Viacom, the last of the 'old media' dinosaurs, went bankrupt in 2025..."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2008


they claim ownership

No they don't. They are not stealing her movie. They claim to own some element she used IN the movie, and they want to collect data on who views it on Youtube. Still bullshit, but they are obviously not literally attempting to take over the copyright.

Someone commented on one of the links that they just made some kind of counter-declaration to Youtube that Viacom didn't own their thing and that was that.

Seeing as this was a school project, it's actually surprising that she, not the school, own the copyright. Most film schools own their students' work.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:42 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


In related news:
Viacom CEO: 'Great' content is king -- "Despite talk that content has become a commodity, Philippe Dauman argues that great content is never a commodity."

Viacom CEO on Google's 'rogue company' -- "Philippe Dauman suggests that it was Google's strategy all along to ignore piracy until YouTube could 'dominate the space.'"
posted by ericb at 2:43 PM on July 22, 2008


If I'm reading this correctly,

You're not.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:43 PM on July 22, 2008


Seeing as this was a school project, it's actually surprising that she, not the school, own the copyright. Most film schools own their students' work.

That's not always true. I went to NYU Film, and all work is student-owned with the caveat that the school has perpetual free use rights (e.g. promotional use, use in class materials, etc.) I believe this applies to many other major film schools.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:44 PM on July 22, 2008


Now, how many people here, to pick one example, paid for a Guitar Hero game?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:44 PM on July 22, 2008


And this actually seems like a fairly generous policy, if applied to someone who actually had borrowed copyrighted material- for example a song they own on the soundtrack of an original film. They let you use their copyrighted material in exchange for statistics.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:45 PM on July 22, 2008


That's not always true.

That's why I said "most." Pretty sure UCLA and USC own their student's work, but this is a tangent.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:46 PM on July 22, 2008


Seems like the simple solution here is for Viacom to produce evidence of their claim. They say that the film infringes on something of their. Show us.

I suppose that's what courts are for, but this seems like something that should be easy prove or disprove.
posted by quin at 2:49 PM on July 22, 2008


I'm sure Viacom would love to avoid the PR scandal.

With Viacom's current and pending $1 billion copyright claim against Google and YouTube I suspect that this kerfuffle will ruffle very few feathers at Viacom.
posted by ericb at 2:49 PM on July 22, 2008


What is the possible basis for laws which allow party X to take property away from party Y, and then put the burden of proof on party Y as to why the transaction shouldn't have happened?

They're not claiming ownership, they are claiming copyright. And the DMCA doesn't exactly work like your example with the lien. The burden of proof is not on the actual owner, rather, the actual owner simply has to assert the content should not be taken down.

They claim to own some element she used IN the movie, and they want to collect data on who views it on Youtube. Still bullshit, but they are obviously not literally attempting to take over the copyright.

Well, what they are doing is claiming they own the copyright to the content, most likely by complete mistake by some automated tool

But the way the DMCA works, once someone claiming to be a copyright owner files a notice, the person who posted the content online has 48 hours to respond, if they don't respond, the content has to come down. however, if they do respond, the content can stay up, and the claimant has to sue the user, not the hosting provider.

Also, the DMCA does have penalties for making false claims. this guy got sued for sending fake DMCA notifications, and lost. He had to issue an apology and lost his domain name, but this was the result of an internet feud, and he wasn't a giant media company with lots of money and lawyers. Despite this, the original author could sue Viacom, and she probably ought too.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on July 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


BTW -- Joanna Davidovich's website: Cup O' Jo.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, what they are doing is claiming they own the copyright to the content, most likely by complete mistake by some automated tool.

T'was also my initial reaction.
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on July 22, 2008


I agree with XQUZYPHYR - if there is no basis for the claim, there needs to be some type of sanction or consequence for making a bad faith assertion of ownership. Otherwise, the big media conglomerates can just use their size and intimidation factor to gobble up control and data.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


On non-preview, looks my concern was already addressed.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2008


From the actual notice:

"Partners may use our automated video/audio matching system to identify their content, or they may manually review videos."


YouTube goes on to say that if you have a problem with the copyright claim, don't come to them, because they won't get involved in copyright disputes. So, my question is - if the YouTube software for video/audio matching is whacked, why should you have to go to Viacom to get it fixed? This seems less like VIACOM EVIL and more like YOUTUBE LAME.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:07 PM on July 22, 2008


I'm considering filing a false advertising claim on this post. Wake me up when someone is really being oppressed, ok?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:09 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]



I agree with XQUZYPHYR - if there is no basis for the claim, there needs to be some type of sanction or consequence for making a bad faith assertion of ownership. Otherwise, the big media conglomerates can just use their size and intimidation factor to gobble up control and data.


From the Copyright section on YT:

Please also note that under Section 512(f) any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing may be subject to liability.

Now, this may not be bad faith, but the kind of action you're describing clearly would be.

YouTube goes on to say that if you have a problem with the copyright claim, don't come to them, because they won't get involved in copyright disputes.

Where? In the terms of use, it says:

B. Counter-Notice. If you believe that your User Submission that was removed (or to which access was disabled) is not infringing, or that you have the authorization from the copyright owner, the copyright owner's agent, or pursuant to the law, to post and use the content in your User Submission, you may send a counter-notice containing the following information to the Copyright Agent:

* Your physical or electronic signature;
* Identification of the content that has been removed or to which access has been disabled and the location at which the content appeared before it was removed or disabled;
* A statement that you have a good faith belief that the content was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or a misidentification of the content; and
* Your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address, a statement that you consent to the jurisdiction of the federal court in San Francisco, California, and a statement that you will accept service of process from the person who provided notification of the alleged infringement.

If a counter-notice is received by the Copyright Agent, YouTube may send a copy of the counter-notice to the original complaining party informing that person that it may replace the removed content or cease disabling it in 10 business days. Unless the copyright owner files an action seeking a court order against the content provider, member or user, the removed content may be replaced, or access to it restored, in 10 to 14 business days or more after receipt of the counter-notice, at YouTube's sole discretion.


The Copyright Agent in question is @ YouTube ("YouTube's designated Copyright Agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement is: Heather Gillette, 901 Cherry Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066, email: copyright@youtube.com, fax: 650-872-8513.")

So if you have a problem, you contact YouTube with a counter-notice. If the copyright owner doesn't object, its restored. If they do, then you may have to go to court, but how else would you resolve it then?
posted by wildcrdj at 3:24 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's completely random! I received an automated message too, from CNET, on an old Halo 3 trailer no one gives a shit about anymore and that was not in any way exclusive to Gamespot or CNET. I believe there's some kind of automated thing that it's doing a lot of strange stuff.
posted by darkripper at 4:16 PM on July 22, 2008


YouTube goes on to say that if you have a problem with the copyright claim, don't come to them, because they won't get involved in copyright disputes.

Where?


From the screenshot of the notification in the original link:

"If you believe that this claim was made in error, or that you are otherwise authorized to use the content at issue, you can dispute this claim with Viacom and view other options in the Video ID Matches section of your YouTube account. Please note that YouTube does on mediate copyright disputes between YouTube owners."

posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:25 PM on July 22, 2008


My son got that same message on one of his YouTube uploads (he uploads short clips of himself playing video games and computer games, with music synched to various scenes). His wasn't from Viacom, though, it was from UMG (Universal Music Group).

At first I was a little freaked out and told him maybe he should delete the video, but it's part of his "collection" and he wanted to leave it up. So I looked at the message more carefully and realized they weren't accusing him of any wrongdoing and it wasn't as much of an "OMG!" situation as I originally thought it was. They weren't claiming "ownership" of his creative endeavor, they were just asserting that he used something (i.e. the music) that belonged to them, which I think is pretty reasonable, considering some of the heavy-handed tactics that other companies use. At least they didn't tell YouTube to delete it.
posted by amyms at 4:28 PM on July 22, 2008


In an ideal world, the courts would punitively grant her access to any present or future Viacom documents concerning their analysis of movies that included the time frame where they had access to her movies stats, without any NDA restrictions. I suppose she could not sell said documents because they are covered under copyright, but I'm sure there are plenty of people willing to pay a pretty penny to examine them with her. In other words, Viacom would be forced to settle for oodls of money.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:45 PM on July 22, 2008


Sounds like some kinda bot that searches out keywords in descriptions (or something along those lines) and sends out notices, as speculated by others above.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:05 PM on July 22, 2008


The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of just giving her access to Viacom's internal documents derived from their access to youtube's statistics. I mean how is the court really going to access the value of the damages form Viacom's abuse of the DMCA here? Plus Viacom has clearly gone beyond mere copyright violation. So just give her all the fruit touched by this and let Viacom buy it back from her. I mean, it's not like Viacom doesn't have anything she want's. They could buy her off trivially by rotating her movie through some main stream theaters and promoting it. Both sides could probably make money here.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:15 PM on July 22, 2008


This isn't a big deal, as frustrating and scary as it seems; it's just Viacom making the individual filmmakers do their legwork, both on the "is it really our stuff" effort and on the "how many potentially infringing works are on YouTube" effort.

Specifically: they don't know how many of the films online at YouTube are their material, and it's going to take a long time to make that determination. Better to use a distributed method where a single person only has to check a small number of clips (as small as one), and all those people are working in parallel.

So start with 100,000 videos (a nice, made-up number) and send out 100,000 notices. Of those 100,000, let's say 90,000 responses come back with a denial. Okay, says Viacom, and they make a note of it. Meanwhile they've only got 10,000 movies to go through in their first pass.

More likely, though, they'll get a smaller number, let's say 25,000. Okay, says Viacom, and they concentrate on the other 75,000. However, they also get to go into court and say "hey, out of the 100,000 people we contacted, only 25% said their movies didn't contain our copyrighted material -- so right now, until we can slog through everything, we can assume the number is roughly 75%. Some of those will turn out to be false positives, but some of the people who are claiming it's not our content will turn out to be wrong, so it should all even out."
posted by davejay at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2008


Argh. Clarification: the fictional statement from Viacom would be "hey, out of the 100,000 people we contacted, only 25% said their movies didn't contain our copyrighted material -- so right now, until we can slog through everything, we can assume the number of people who have uploaded our copyrighted material to YouTube is roughly 75% of the total number of people who have uploaded material."

Which doesn't make it true, but is likely to make an impression on a judge.
posted by davejay at 5:33 PM on July 22, 2008


Yeah, but that still ain't right. There need to be financial penalties, *BIG* financial penalties, to entities which send out DMCA takedown notices that are found to be incorrect. Say 1% of the company's gross as declared in the past fiscal year, payable to the victim of the false DMCA takedown for the first offense, 2% for the second offense and so on. 50 false takedowns = bankruptcy.

As it is they send out bots that do the most insanely wide pattern matches you've ever seen, terrorize people with scary (and wrongly issued) legal instruments, and generally fuck things up because they can get away with it and because there's no penalty attached the rational policy for any big media company is to issue DMCA takedowns for absolutely everything online. Add penalties and the practice will vanish and the only takedowns issued will be the ones the company has throughly checked out and is quite sure they can win with.
posted by sotonohito at 6:21 PM on July 22, 2008


From the screenshot of the notification in the original link:

"If you believe that this claim was made in error, or that you are otherwise authorized to use the content at issue, you can dispute this claim with Viacom and view other options in the Video ID Matches section of your YouTube account. Please note that YouTube does on mediate copyright disputes between YouTube owners."


OK, that's just another way of saying what the bit I posted says. You can dispute the copyright claim via the procedure above. If the copyright owner goes "yeah, you're right, our mistake", the video is restored. If both sides continue to assert ownership of the work, YouTube will not mediate, a court must do so. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I don't see how YT is capable of accurately judging the ownership if both sides continue to claim it, that's clearly the job of the courts.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:29 PM on July 22, 2008


This will look great in a Google brief. "Claimant suggests that we are more than capable of identifying copyrighted material, however they incorrectly identified the following as belonging to themselves: ... "
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:56 PM on July 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


There need to be financial penalties, *BIG* financial penalties, to entities which send out DMCA takedown notices that are found to be incorrect.

That makes the huge erroneous assumption that your corporate overlords, ie. your government, gives a good goddamn about the individual.

It doesn't. You are well and truly fucked.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


hmmm...seems like this might actually be intentional on the part of viacom (i'm assuming that information about the veiwing of competitors work is valuable to them)...seems like just having this info on their servers could be very dangerous for them from an insider trading/corporate spying/data theft point of view...possibly not only actionable, but criminal as well. if google/youtube were smart, they would pack their data turnovers to viacom with this kind of info, then make sure they get busted for it...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:20 PM on July 22, 2008


There's a lot of constructive sentiment here, but who are we kidding?
* Your senators work for their donors (the American Intellectual Property Law Association, et al), a lot more than they do for you.
* The court system is financially accessible to corporate law firms, not you.
* YouTube cares about complaints from media giants, not your complaints. If you have an issue, you're the one who gets the form letter.

Needless to say, the media giants are figuring out how to run roughshod all over YouTube. We're in the golden years, like Napster circa 1999.
posted by crapmatic at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wake me up when someone is really being oppressed, ok?

First they came for the movie creators, but I said nothing, because I don't create any movies...

Next they came for the picture takes, but I said nothing, because I don't take any pictures...
posted by DreamerFi at 2:00 AM on July 23, 2008


crapmatic and DU You are, of course, absolutely correct. I was just ranting about the way it should be if the law were intended to actually do its job, as opposed to simply helping out the people with deep pockets for bribes people who donate money out of pure altruistic motives with no intention of ever getting anything in exchange....
posted by sotonohito at 6:07 AM on July 23, 2008


The RIAA has done this to a friend of mine. He posted his own band's self produced music videos! And someone posted one of his albums to iTunes! He had to prove to Apple that he was the owner/producer...
posted by Gungho at 6:38 AM on July 23, 2008


YouTube will not mediate, a court must do so. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

It sounds perfectly reasonable in a system in which the loser pays the winners legal costs. In any system in which both sides are responsible for their own legal costs, it sounds like a recipe for corporate shenanigans.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:18 AM on July 23, 2008


For anyone interested, the video in question is pretty charming.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:37 AM on July 23, 2008



First they came for the movie creators, but I said nothing, because I don't create any movies...

Next they came for the picture takes, but I said nothing, because I don't take any pictures...


I thought we all agreed not to do this anymore...no?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2008


Update: From the comments section of the YouTube video -

Its officially over! I was personally contacted by an executive at Viacom, who explained how my film got mixed into their system. Juxtaposer was in a film festival that was presented by Nicktoons, and they just forgot that Viacom's rights to those films were all nonexclusive. He personally assured me that Viacom is no longer making a claim to my film. Thanks again to everyone who commented! And also, thank you to Viacom who stepped up, admitted their mistake and apologized, within two days.
posted by smoothvirus at 7:19 PM on July 23, 2008


Thank God! I can breathe again.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:53 PM on July 23, 2008


Great! If only more cases were settled like that. It's nice to talk to real people.
posted by danb at 9:02 PM on July 23, 2008


I thought we all agreed not to do this anymore...no?

First The Light Fantastic came for DreamerFi, but I said nothing because I didn't care...

Then The Light Fantastic came for Pastor Martin Niemöller, but I said nothing because I didn't know him...

Then The Light Fantastic came for me, but I said nothing because, hey, it's rude to speak while someone's coming.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


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