My Blog

A New Video, YouTube and Copyright

An interesting thing occurred the other night as I logged on to the old Paper Rad YouTube account after almost a year of not using it. I was logging on to post this new video I just finished:

Before I could post my video I was confronted with a mandatory “copyrite school” (is it illegal to spell copywrite wrong?) questionnaire and a mandatory viewing of this video, hosted by some cartoon characters called “happy tree friends”:

It seems one of the videos on our account was recently taken down due to copywrite infringement. The video in question was an episode that my former collaborator Ben Jones told me to post of Cartoon Network’s new show “Problem Solverz”. It was the video on our account with by far the most views, as well as the most negative, hateful comments and dislikes of any video we have ever posted.  I thought the video was a really interesting example of how “success” functions on the web and I was sad to see it go, but not that sad because I didn’t really make the video.  Ben did make the video (with a team of Cartoon Network employees) and I posted it because he asked me to and because we as a team previously worked on a similar project (Problem Solvers with an “s”). Nonetheless YouTube took the video down as requested by Cartoon Network and now the Paper Rad YouTube account has 1 of 3 strikes against it. 2 more and all of our videos will be gone. This is probable as now that we are on their radar they will notice that almost ALL of our videos have copywrited material of some form in them (for example the video as well as music I just posted is almost all appropriated in some way). Of course the thing about these content “take-downs” is that you have no clue why any video in particular is being targeted. From the user’s perspective it seems arbitrary when and why content is removed from your account. Ultimately I don’t care about the Paper Rad YouTube account that much, we can always post the videos elsewhere (although I do think it serves some minor historical significance) but I find this story interesting because of the history of Paper Rad’s work and of my current work, and of how it seems to fit in within larger artistic trends. I could go on and on about this but I think I will leave it brief for now:

If you look back at early Paper Rad projects they often included a range of relations to copyrighted material–from blatant “sampling” to subtle pop-cultural references, to  “all-original” content. There was a continuum in the work that reflected our experience of the world as active consumers and producers–that we are influenced by and can influence the world. It seems to me that when your work reaches a certain level of exposure you have to get trickier and trickier with how you express this continuum, or you might come up against some legal troubles. I admire artists like Girl Talk for having created a functional model within this system. This is a challenge that I fully embrace and hope to one day have to worry about for real.For now though, I hope you enjoy the above videos 🙂