In their book “Information Feudalism” (2002), Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite argue that the “danger of intellectual property lies in the threat to liberty” (p. 3). Also Jamie Boyle, in his open access book “The Public Domain” (2008, PDF) warns against the potential of strong copyrights to interfere with some of the most basic human rights such as free speech. Only rarely, however, these dangers become so clearly visible as in the current controversy around a Greenpeace campaign video.
It all started with a very successful Superbowl commercial by VW, featuring a child as Darth Vader and being enormously successful on YouTube with over 40 million viewers so far:
Inspired by this commercial, Greenpeace created a parody featuring several kids playing other famous Star Wars characters and attacking VW for its CO2 policies on the campaign website www.vwdarkside.com. When today I wanted to see the video embedded at the site, I however only encountered the message delivered by YouTube that the video was not available due to copyright infringement (see screenshot below).
Meanwhile, Greenpeace has uploaded the video to another video sharing platform (Vimeo), where it
is still available – at least for now was blocked soon thereafter (see update below):
But this is not the end of the story. Not only has the VW parody been blocked at YouTube, but the official Greenpeace account and all its videos
are now have been offline. YouTube only delivers the following notice:
“YouTube account GreenpeaceVideo has been terminated because we received multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringements from claimants including:
- Lucasfilm Ltd
- Lucasfilm Ltd
- Lucasfilm Ltd”
For a social movement organization such as Greenpeace, having all its videos blocked on the major online video sharing platform seems to be a big deal – and again questions the three-strikes-rule practiced by YouTube (see also “This Post is Available in Your Country” and “The YouTube Copyright School“).
Even more, when taking the transnational dimension of this case into account. The Greenpeace parody may very well be covered by copyright exemptions in several jurisdictions but for reasons of simplicity and to reduce legal risks, YouTube generally blocks videos across the board. In dubio contra libertas.
While the Vimeo-link to the Greenpeace video is also down, the video is now hosted at the not-so-prominent video platform 23video.com. There you can not only see the Dark-Side-Video but also the short sequel “Episode II“, which features a Greenpeace banner on the VW death star. (Because of restrictions of wordpress.com I sadly cannot embed the videos into this post.)