Another day, another example of copyright being used as censorship. As you may have heard, there was a bit of controversy this weekend when talk show host Ellen DeGeneres attended the Dallas Cowboys game with former President George W. Bush. This made lots of people quite upset as they argued that being friends with Bush was either support for “tolerance of hate and discrimination” or an effort at “whitewashing… his manifest crimes.” Others argued, as Ellen did, that there are good reasons to be kind to people you fundamentally disagree with.
Wherever you come down on that debate, hopefully you can agree that, no matter what, the Ellen Show then using a copyright claim to take down a transformative video, created by Rafael Shimunov, that took Ellen’s “be nice to each other” monologue about the situation and superimposed images on the back screen of what appears to be scenes of devastation in the Middle East that came about from President Bush’s policies. This is, of course, classic fair use. Taking a bit of video (1 minute and 46 seconds) from Ellen’s show, and using it in a transformative way to provide commentary and criticism of Ellen’s speech. Even if you think it’s unfair or heavy handed, it still should quite clearly be protected by fair use. But, instead:
That’s the original tweet posting the video, showing that it has been “disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”
Of course, in response to this, a whole bunch of folks are now reposting the video on Twitter. So far, (as I type this), they’ve mostly remained online — which at least suggests that the original takedown was not an automated takedown notice or machine recognition situation, but a deliberate report. Indeed, other tweets suggest that the “social media manager” of The Ellen Show sent a DMCA takedown over the video.
@TwitterSupport just notified me that they have removed this video. In the screenshots I am posting is an e-mail address for @TheEllenShow and I say Twitter do your thing and ask Ellen why she keeps reporting this content that is definitely #FairUse. @rafaelshimunov https://t.co/6vziaTGvSi pic.twitter.com/tubd5ReBlC
— OfThePeople #Bernie2020🔥 (@Of_the_People7) October 9, 2019
It’s possible (likely?) that this lower level staffer just thought she was stopping “copyright infringement” (and maybe didn’t even realize the transformative nature of the video), but it still highlights the incredible censorial powers of copyright law and the DMCA, in which, by mere accusation, the content may get deleted — especially regarding a time-sensitive and politically relevant discussion.
Still, as happens when these situations come about, tons of people are now reposting the video:
following @Of_the_People7, also posting this brilliant @rafaelshimunov video here for everyone… since Ellen has falsely flagged it as copyright infringement in an effort to suppress it. pic.twitter.com/jxrIlDHFCe
— Kamala Harris is a Cop (@BethLynch2020) October 9, 2019
— Mark of the Vampire Gongloff (@markgongloff) October 9, 2019
Perhaps this is something that Ellen might want to discuss with Barbra Streisand the next time she has Streisand on her show…