Slate thinks piracy is cool

Note to Slate: When you post a thing about a YouTube video in which some dude on the Internet has supercut all the F-bombs in The Wolf of Wall Street — like you did the other day with “Every F-Bomb from The Wolf of Wall Street — you are promoting piracy.

Why would you do that?

The only way some dude on the Internet could create a supercut of bits from a film still in multiplexes (or actually not even open in some major market yet) is if he has a pirated copy of the film, or access to an awards screener (if one was even made available, which I don’t think it has), which the studios put the fear of God into those of us who receive such things to protect and keep off the Internet.


No shit.

Look. Piracy is happening. There’s plenty of debate over whether its impact on the industry is as bad as the industry claims, and plenty of debate over how the industry could be better reacting to what constitutes a loud-and-clear demand from its audience for a new way to consume its product. But while we’re figuring out all this stuff, it’s just plain obnoxious for a major respected corporate site such as Slate to be given blatant piracy a stamp of approval for no reason beyond clickbait.

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014 10:49am

Inevitably, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Paramount.”

Everybody is already pirating. Including the content industry. Including government. They just have the money to buy off the claims, so it’s only the little people who suffer the insanely high penalties. Copyright is already dead; it’s just a matter of waiting until the corpse runs out of money to buy thugs and lawyers. Suggesting that people shouldn’t advocate it at this point will be about as effective in changing the trend as suggesting that people shouldn’t sleep with people they aren’t married to.

(Slate’s “respected”? When did that happen?)

Mon, Jan 20, 2014 3:45am

Well, first of all it is not inconceivable that whomever made this super cut has a legit copy of the film. Making a video like this is not piracy, it’s fair use, regardless of how the editor got ahold of the original footage. And Slate no more culpable for this than are the journalists who print leaked government memos.

But even if the uploader has a pirated copy of the movie, it is not a violation of copyright law to make fair use of copyrighted video just because you’re doing it a couple months before you are “given” access — you don’t need permission to make “fair use” re-use of media, even though the copyright lobby would have us all be intimidated into thinking otherwise. It’s similar to a review embargo in that way, you hold back on your review not because it’s illegal to print it, but because the studio asked you to and you don’t want to piss them off.

They might be successfully cracking down on things like cammed versions of movies (and I think they should be, but mostly because cam versions suck), but it does stomp on our right to make legal use of copyrighted materials, as a “supercut” video like this most assuredly is.

Second, a copyright claim on youtube is not evidence of wrongdoing; youtube has a strict, over-the-top copyright policy; where anyone listed as a content “owner” can claim ownership of anything on there, and they have 30 days to make the case if the uploader disagrees.

And even if it’s not fair use, that’s not Slate’s job to decide.

Besides, piracy is cool. Is it illegal to pirate a film? Yes. That is exactly what makes something cool.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  KingNewbs
Mon, Jan 20, 2014 2:34pm

it is not inconceivable that whomever made this super cut has a legit copy of the film.

Such as? Anyone who has a legit copy of the film at this point would had to have been involved in the production of it. So either Paramount wanted this supercut to show up on the web — which wouldn’t have been a bad idea as far as promotion goes — or someone with legit access used the film in a way not intended by their access.

It’s a real stretch to compare this to “leaked government memos.” The film is not secret. It’s out in theaters for anyone to see… if they buy a ticket. Matters of wrongdoing by Paramount are not revealed by this video.

Yes, YouTube’s copyright policy is overly strict. But saying that “making a video like this is not piracy” is like saying that spending money you stole from a bank isn’t theft. Is this video fair use? Possibly. The question is, Is there a legit way to make fair use of this film in this way at this point in time? I contend not.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Jan 20, 2014 7:46pm

Such as someone involved in the production of the film, yes. Or someone involved gave an early DVD copy to a friend, or someone found a DVD copy in the street that fell off a truck — sure it might make Paramount angry, but it also makes them angry when you lend me your DVD copy of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Doesn’t make it illegal though, is all I’m saying there.

Fair Use is a nebulous doctrine, on purpose I think… designed to be reviewed on a case by case basis. But I’d disagree with you here and say filming 10 seconds of the movie with my camera and using it in a parody would qualify as fair use, despite the movie studio becoming very upset. I don’t know where this guy got his footage from, but I can think of a more apt analogy:

If I copy your review of Star Trek V and post it as my own work, that’s a copyright violation. If I use a paragraph from it in a meta analysis of reviews of Star Trek V, it’s fair use. Now, your copyright protection exists (at least in the US) from the moment you write anything. You don’t ever have to publish it, or register it with a copyright office. It’s live the moment creation is complete. But you are afforded no more protection based on when you make that review available.

If I sneak into your bedroom and print off your Star Trek review before you post it, I might be in trouble for B&E (the window was open!) but if I only ever use a single paragraph from your review in my analysis, I am not guilty of copyright infringement no matter how I got a hold on your article.

reply to  KingNewbs
Mon, Jan 20, 2014 7:47pm

PS What’s this obsession you have with Star Trek V? Jeez! :)