“Child Killer” Murdered by Copyright Law

For shame! My homemade epic, “Child Killer,” has been removed from YouTube!


Dear portfola,

Video Disabled

A copyright owner has claimed it owns some or all of the audio content in your video Child Killer. The audio content identified in your video is Break On Through by The Doors. We regret to inform you that your video has been blocked from playback due to a music rights issue.

I didn’t see that one coming, no. Since I first posted it online over two years ago, Child Killer has gotten maybe 100 views on YouTube, half of which I am accountable for – but one of those others was apparently a mole working for Warner Music Group, who successfully ferreted out HanftPort Productions’ flagrant violation of copyright law. The film does feature liberal playtime for “Break on Through” – it plays in at least two scenes, and total playtime amounts to nearly the entire song. I wonder what Warner would ask of our small independent label for the rights?

This episode follows another recent encounter I had with the agents of artistic and commercial integrity. In a letter last June, my local internet service provider informed me that

… we have received notification from one or more owners of copyrights claiming that their work has been transmitted over the Internet from your account without their permission… We are concerned that either you or a person with access to your account may be unknowingly participating in certain file sharing or server-related activities that led to this complaint.

Included with that letter are copies of emails sent to the ISP on behalf of HBO’s legal team requesting that my account be shut down for downloading the HBO original movie “Recount,” about the 2000 election (a most enjoyable film!) They had the details of the download, including the exact file name and size, and my IP address. Hard to argue with that.

It was just a warning. The ISP was very nice about it, really, taking pains to avoid outright accusing me, and assuring me that I would not lose my service or go to jail if I just stopped downloading stuff. HBO does not have my identity, although this post would give it away quite neatly if they cared to look. But really, they don’t. They just want to scare me into subscribing to HBO, which I won’t since it isn’t worth it, even with good movies like “Recount.” (Although I will miss Season 2 of “Flight of the Conchords,” which is bloody brilliant. Pity.)

Copyright law as it stands today is flawed. We still need laws to prevent people getting ripped off, but as Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing has put it, most musicians’ problem isn’t piracy, it’s anonymity. It’s obscurity. The idea is to get your stuff out there, not keep it away from people. This is the same for most artists in general. Of course it’s not true for large media conglomerates like WMG and Viacom.

We talked about this recently in the Junta, and I learned something very interesting. In the traditional business model of the music business, the only ones making money – real money – off records were the record companies. The artists lived off their advances, their ticket sales, their promotional deals, etc. and the only ones making real money off records were maybe the top 100 artists in the business. That business model is rapidly swirling down the drain.

So while we won’t have Child Killer on YouTube anymore, we’ll find somewhere else to host it. And while we won’t download HBO original movies anymore, we’ll surely continue sharing media with friends and strangers for a long time. As Doctorow has said, the technology for copying and sharing this stuff isn’t going to get any harder. Those who are smart enough to learn the new rules will prosper in the new era, and those who troll the internet looking for violators will be left in the dust.

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