This is an unplanned post, feverishly typed out at work after reading this post on Jim Emerson's Scanners. It was in reading this post that I discovered all of Kevin Lee's video essays on YouTube had been removed due to copyright infringement. Jim Emerson says, "This is a travesty of the principles of intellectual freedom that the Fair Use doctrine is designed to protect and encourage under US Copyright Law." I agree. Matt Zoller Seitz also writes about it here and says:
Clips often determine the difference between learning something and truly understanding it. They're quotes from the source text deployed to make a case. Take them away, and you're left with the critic saying, "Well, I can't show you exactly what I mean, so I'll describe it as best I can and hope you believe me."
This, in a nutshell, is the defining difference between criticism pre- and post-millennium. For the first time ever, when someone says to a critic, "Show me the evidence," the critic doesn't need to unlock a film archive vault or even haul out a DVD player to produce it. He can call it up online anytime, anywhere, for anybody.
My take is a bit more personal and a bit more pissed off. Look, I'm not worried about losing my work on montages that I have done over the last seven months. I've got Frames of Reference and Beautiful Monsters and all the rest backed up on hard drive and on disc. If YouTube deletes them before I finish this post I'll still have them. I'm pissed off because it's just one more example of pedantic head-up-their-ass corporate lawyers not seeing the big picture. When I put together a montage, I'm not profiting off of it nor am I burning a copy of the original movie for re-sale. If anyone were to actually buy my montage for redistribution on commercial television every movie in the montage would get royalties. As it is, on YouTube, the only thing those clips are doing, and Matt's and Kevin's, are promoting the movie!
Do you know how many comments there were for Frames of Reference stating that a particular clip made them want to see the movie? Do you know how many clips I see in montages online, on TCM or during the Oscars that make me want to see the movie? It happens all the time. It's a free advertisement for the movie itself! It's promotion you blockheads! It's also a classic example of business models with their feet stuck in the mud, mired in the past. Cinema Styles, Matt Zoller Sietz and Kevin Lee aren't taking business away from the studios, we're sending it to them. I can't imagine any movie or studio out there has been deprived of income due to my montages. If I were selling burned copies of entire movies to all of you then yes, I am taking money for a product that is not mine and no matter how little that money is compared with what the studio made on the movie, it's still money that I am making from someone else's work. But with a montage, I'm working for nothing and essentially producing 2 to 6 minute commercials for the movies involved. My Killing Me Wetly montage done during October Killfest has around 5,000 views and a couple of questions about The Dead Zone clip. If anything, I've probably contributed to at least a few rentals or purchases of The Dead Zone with that silly little montage.
So studios and blinded by greed lawyers: Back off! Jim and Matt and Kevin can give all the eloquent reasons critics need clips to make statements. And they're right. But I'm telling you, since you're clearly not getting it, that the only thing you're accomplishing with this is losing pre-made, pre-packaged advertisements for your product. And you didn't even have to pay for them! It's 2009. Please, for all of our sakes, get your heads out of your asses.