(See below for update)
Last week I noticed my remix video entitled “Too Many Dicks on the Daily Show” had been removed from YouTube via a bogus takedown from Viacom claiming copyright infringement. The remix is a transformative work critical of the gender disparities on The Daily Show and constitutes a fair use of copyrighted visual material as provided for in section 107 of the US copyright law.
This is the second time Viacom has abused the DMCA takedown process to prevent this particular fair use video from being seen. It’s especially ironic considering each episode of The Daily Show relies on the fair use doctrine in order to satirically comment on mainstream news broadcasts. I am currently appealing this latest takedown with the help of my attorneys from New Media Rights.
Back in August 2013, after nearly 2 years on YouTube, my remix was also removed without warning by Viacom claiming infringement for “visual content” from The Daily Show. I immediately informed my attorneys at New Media Rights who in turn contacted Viacom to inquire about the takedown. Quickly thereafter I received an automated message from YouTube stating that Viacom had rescinded their copyright infringement claim. Viacom provided no other information or explanation but the video was again viewable on YouTube and so I assumed the matter had been resolved. Roughly a year and a half later I find myself dealing with the same exact situation.
As I explained in my original blog post, the video is presented as an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart which is interrupted by a remixed critique of the show’s gender imbalance and “boys’ locker room” comedy stylings. The remix was created with clips borrowed from over 100 episodes of The Daily Show combined with a portion of the Flight of the Conchords song “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor” in order to subvert both sources.
Made in 2011, the video was meant to highlight the lack of women in on-screen or leading creative roles on The Daily Show over its 17-year run. At the time only 3 of the 12 regular correspondents/contributors on The Daily Show were women. Only 2 of the 16 writers were women and the numbers have not improved much in the 4 years since I published the critique (although Jessica Williams is a brilliant addition to the cast).
On both occasions Viacom has abused the DMCA takedown system to remove my video, which has resulted in an unjust strike placed against my YouTube account. On both occasions I’ve been temporarily locked out of my channel and forced to attend YouTube’s copyright school and pass a test on fair use. This is particularly patronizing since just over a year ago YouTube invited me to their space in Los Angeles to give a lecture on transformative storytelling and to specifically highlight the fair use questions that arise when remixing video footage for the purposes of political parody.
I should also note that YouTube currently features another one of my remix videos as an example of fair use video on their official page explaining the fair use doctrine to their user base.
Again, I’m in the process of trying to get my video back online. For now you can watch it over at the Internet Archive.
One last note: New Media Rights has offered me invaluable advice and guidance throughout these battles. They are a small, non-profit, two-lawyer operation on a shoe-string budget fighting to make sure artists like me are heard. So if you can, please consider donating to them here.
UPDATE: Shortly after this story was picked up by TechDirt the remix video in question reappeared on my YouTube channel and the copyright strikes against my account vanished. I received no official notification about what had transpired from either YouTube or Viacom.