Linking to Copyrighted Material December 6, 2002 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Isn't this link to copyrighted material illegal? Or at the very least, unethical? Not trying to stir up controversey over the whole "file sharing" debate, just don't want MetaFilter sued for distribution of material that's both copyrighted & commercially available.
posted by jonson to Etiquette/Policy at 12:58 PM (46 comments total)

I'm not sure I get it, is the linked movie the entire content of the DVD?

People have linked to Simpsons episodes, bootleg audio, and various other things that weren't 100% legal.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2002


As far as I know, linking isn't ever really a problem (though there have been a few attempted lawsuits based upon links.) What would be a violation is reproducing the work (i.e. copying it and hosting it on your own site, or cut-and-pasting an entire article to a MeFi thread.)
posted by ptermit at 1:30 PM on December 6, 2002


If we weren't to link to copyrighted material, there would be no links. CNN articles, weblogs, video files... all copyrighted.
posted by benjh at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2002


Yes, Matt. It's a copy of the entire short film, which is available on the Bitter Films website. As it's never been aired on television, the only place it could have been acquired is ripped from the DVD.

The fact that it's short does not alter the fact that they are linking to a complete reproduction, and without the consent of the creator. When we link to CNN, we're linking to CNN's site hosting CNN-owned material. This is a link to a site that's doing something unquestionably illegal. Your call.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2002


benjh, yes, I see your point, but you realize the difference between linking to CNN and linking to a bootleg copy of a Salon Premium article or directly to a warez site...
posted by jonson at 1:42 PM on December 6, 2002


I dunno what to do on this, the person breaking the law runs the site/server with the video file on it. Pointing to it isn't a crime, but if it's some gross breaking of the law, I could take it down.

I asked if the entire DVD was this 9 minute piece, if so, someone's reproducing the entire work without permission which is worse than just hosting an excerpt. Sort of like that snippet of the MTV music awards in another thread today, which I'm not sure has the Viacom seal of approval.

What's the emoticon for shrugging my shoulders? I'm not sure it's entirely imperative that I pull the link, though I do see that some law breaking is going on.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:44 PM on December 6, 2002


"Isn't this link to copyrighted material illegal?"

No.

"Or at the very least, unethical?"

Debatable, but no. Hosting the file might be, but not linking. Copyright, and ethics surrounding copyright, will have to adjust to the new medium.

Certain people will scream bloody murder about that. [shrug] It's going to happen anyway. It's a new world. Time to get with the program rather than wishing for the good old days. And it seems to me he stands to sell many more DVDs based on the link, as opposed to losing sales via pirating (if that's even the case, doesn't seem like it).

The Internet is on par with the invention of the printing press and film in terms of expanding the ability of artists to reach people. Shutting that down so that a few artists can continue making money the old fashioned way is silly IMHO.

Having said that......

I think the person hosting the file is liable for "distribution of material that's both copyrighted & commercially available" rather than Metafilter.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:45 PM on December 6, 2002


I think if you delete it, you're only setting yourself up for future questions... a LOT cloudier than this one, based on this precedent.

I don't think it happens all that often to really worry about it. I'm all for doing the right thing, but I think we (you) should just let this one ride and worry about it later if it somehow becomes a trend.

on preview: EXACTLY y6y6y6
posted by Witty at 1:51 PM on December 6, 2002


Matt, I just commented about the guy's main site. It's a collection of several dozen illegally ripped and posted films from all over the place, of which any of the original creators can suddenly notice are getting lots of hits to from Metafilter.

If people are serious about their interest in the film, keep the link to Hertzfeldt's site, and hope that they eventually resolve their issues and put the film on Cartoon Network like they were supposed to last month. Regardless, kill the link to the illegal site.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:53 PM on December 6, 2002


From the film maker in his FAQ:

http://www.bitterfilms.com/qa.html

"what bothers us with these bootlegs has nothing to do with money.. we put lots of effort and care into shooting the films directly onto 35mm, perfecting the sound mixes, and quality-controlling them like vultures so it's a little heartbreaking to see them flippantly downgraded into shitty little mono video files by some 10 year old who doesn't know what he's doing.. and for all the world to see.. so it bugs me when that's how some people might be first exposed to your work. films are not meant to be seen on the internet. it also kind of sucks when the bootlegs are randomly renamed or wrongly credited.. but it's clearly an inevitable thing to deal with, i just hope people understand that what they're downloading is the equivalent of drinking a glass of fine wine after it's been filtered through a sewer. it's really not quite the same wine after that"

Sounds like he thinks it sort of sucks, but isn't unethical.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2002


XQUZYPHYR: I don't think anyone is debating that what the owner of the site is doing is illegal. What MetaFilter is doing isn't, in my opinion.

It's no different than saying to someone, "You can buy crack cocain from THAT guy right over there." It's your choice whether you do or not. simply pointing out the fact that the guy is a dealer isn't illegal.

A simple mouseover shows you where the file is coming from... either watch or don't.
posted by Witty at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2002


Pointing to it isn't a crime
Isn't that exactly what 2600 tried to say with the DeCSS code, and looked what happened to them...
You can buy crack cocain from THAT guy right over there.
I'm no law expert, but could that be considered aiding and abbetting? I know you aren't actually buying the crack for them, but you are helping them to obtain it by telling them where it is.
posted by jmd82 at 2:09 PM on December 6, 2002


"Isn't that exactly what 2600 tried to say with the DeCSS code, and looked what happened to them..."

Good point. In both cases we have links to illegal files. However -

1) The DeCSS decision is wrong, and I strongly encourage people to be civilly disobedient in regards to it.

2) The copyright holder isn't attempting to shut down this type of bootleg. He doesn't like it, but he says it's inevitable. If he isn't going to defend his copyright in more forceful language than that, why should we?
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2002


If Don whatshisname asked me to pull the link, I would oblige. I would also have no problem with someone contacting him to tell him about this kid mirroring his work.

This doesn't happen every often, and it's not that strong of a case. I've left links to DeCSS sites up and other gray areas before, and don't see a strong reason to get rid of this one. Good MetaFilter posts are made when someone posts links to something interesting they found on the web, and that movie is certainly one of them.

A little off-topic, but I find it a little funny that the director is so concerned with quality on something that consists of simple stick figures on paper.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2002


I find it a little funny that the director is so concerned with quality on something that consists of simple stick figures on paper.

It's not just the drawing, it's the smoothness of the animation, the impact of the sound, the very timing of some of the gags. You haven't experienced seeing this at a film festival, Matt. It's a religious experience.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2002


jmd82: I see your point. And I can't say I know the exacts of the law either... which means I don't know where the line is drawn. But I could say to you, "Cocaine can be found in Northeast Washington D.C., illegal copies of movies can be found on the internet, you can steal cigarettes from the grocery store." I would hope that none of those examples would land me in jail for aiding or abetting.
posted by Witty at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2002


" It's a religious experience."

Okay....... I think *someone* needs to take this film much less seriously, or take religion more seriously. If seeing this film was really similar to seeing the face of God, or some sort of divine Rapture, I think he wouldn't have any trouble selling a few billion copies.

But this does sound cool. People in the theatre begin fainting and speaking in tongues? Are there spontaneous cancer remissions? You are filled with a warm glow and feel the Holy Spirit enter your body? I'd pay to see that. Will there be hymns?
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2002


" I would hope that none of those examples would land me in jail for aiding or abetting."

The difference is that once you click on the link (with DeCSS or the bootleg) you have *in your possession* something which is illegal. So to use your analogy, linking to the file is like selling cocaine. It's not pointing to some guy with the cocaine. It's actually handing out cocaine.

(which would explain XQUZYPHYR's response to the film)
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2002


A little off-topic, but I find it a little funny that the director is so concerned with quality on something that consists of simple stick figures on paper.

The compression completely kills the final sequence.

I think *someone* needs to take this film much less seriously

Impossible. It's been four or five months since I first saw this film, and I still catch myself reciting different parts pretty much every day. I'm sure this is horribly subjective, but Rejected has taken over parts of my life that Jesus couldn't reach...

...and yes, I bought the DVD, and I sent the file round to all my friends, along with a link to Don's site.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2002


y6y6y6: Huh? You said, "once you click on the link (with DeCSS or the bootleg) you have *in your possession* something which is illegal." I agree.

But I don't agree that "linking to the file is like selling cocaine." Am I breaking a law if I put up a link to child pornography?
posted by Witty at 3:10 PM on December 6, 2002


Am I breaking a law if I put up a link to child pornography?
Well, isn't everything tecnnically a link? Say I have child porn on my computer (i don't), and i host a website...in the html, there is still a link to the pictures. So would that make YOUR linking to MY pictures illegal if MY linking to MY own pics is illegal?
posted by jmd82 at 3:18 PM on December 6, 2002


You know... I just don't know. I would hope not. I'm hoping that the owner or host of the the file-age in question would be the only one at fault.

Perhaps "good internet practices" (haha, as if...) tells us we shouldn't link to the illegal file... but I just think it's far too grey to tell.

Set the linkers free!
posted by Witty at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2002


"Am I breaking a law if I put up a link to child pornography?"

Well.... I think so....... Isn't that what the DeCSS decision is saying? In my opinion it shouldn't be, but that does seem to be what the law is at this point. Unless you have some case which says linking to such material is okay? I'd welcome such a thing.

As I said I think the DeCSS decision is crap and I don't have a problem with the film link.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2002


"I'd welcome such a thing."

Okay, that came out wrong. I strongly support keeping child porn illegal.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:42 PM on December 6, 2002


It's not just the drawing, it's the smoothness of the animation, the impact of the sound, the very timing of some of the gags. You haven't experienced seeing this at a film festival, Matt. It's a religious experience.

I second this. The quality of animation is actually quite good if you see it under ideal circumstances. I was shocked at how much you missed by watching the ripped version.

That said, I don't think the link should be taken down. I repeat what I said before: the fact that you're circulating a rip of a sweet short film will interest people in Hertzfeldt's work. The fact that that rip sucks ass will encourage people to buy the DVD if they are interested in it to begin with. The remainder of people, those who aren't interested, wouldn't have bought anything anyway. Net effect is that Hertzfeldt gets more money than he would have, and more people get to see the cartoon than they would have, both of which seem to be amenable to the artist.
posted by Hildago at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2002


Hildago sums up the entirety of the Napster-users-downloading-crappy-128kbps-or-lower-content-only-to-go-out-and-buy-the-CD-as-a-result argument perfectly.

I was making a joke about the quality argument by the way, regardless of the technical nature of compression, it's funny that a guy drawing stick figures aspires to perfect prints.

But what Hildago said, in 50ft letters. I had seen screenshots of his shorts before, but had no idea who he was. Now I'll be on the lookout for his work and probably pick up the DVD.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:36 PM on December 6, 2002


Okay, that came out wrong. I strongly support keeping child porn illegal.

Scary how there's lots of things we won't/can't say these days in the worlds of sedition, copyright, and pornography.

*screams "fire"*

Anyway, ditto Hildago, et al. How is this different than mp3s?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:40 PM on December 6, 2002


Matthowie: If Don whatshisname asked me to pull the link, I would oblige.

Don whathisname: "If we wanted the films on the internet at all, they'd be at bitterfilms.com for free. Maybe some day, but not too soon. " (from his website)


Essentially, this is a guy whose work several people here claim to like, but you are deliberately going against his wishes for the distribution of his content. And while the original ripper/poster of the material is the true culprit, promoting his crime to the tens of thousands of people who come here every day.
posted by jonson at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2002


Maybe all of the machinations of the media cartels have pushed me too far over into the information wants to be free camp, but I don't really care all that much about the wishes of the artist.

The artist should own it up until they release it into the world. After that it's a shared experience. I'll support the artist with money if I value their work enough. But, if you won't let me have a painting unless you can come over to my house and optimize the lighting, and want me to go out and get new furniture so as not to clash or distract from the full appreciation of the work, then don't even bother creating it. You're just creating more noise I have to wade through every day with that attitude, and I have no problem with subverting your wishes at that point.
posted by willnot at 5:26 PM on December 6, 2002


If Don whatshisname asked me to pull the link, I would oblige.

He did, pre-emptively, just not directly to you.

What jonson said. For a busy guy who complains about all the requests he gets in a day, Matt, you seem very demanding that Hertzfeldt takes his already-established position and forwards it to you personally. ;) [/snark]

And y6y6y6- no speaking in tongues, but a few screenings involved massive acts of revelry and destruction of stuffed animals. People also make this man little clay figures of the anal bleeding fish sticks. And he didn't have any trouble selling the DVDs, the first print run sold out in a week. Hertzfeldt doesn't need (nor did he ask) anyone to hawk it on web sites for him, so no one should be using the "it's just promoting him more" excuse.

As far as religion goes, there's a near-religious expectation from his fans for his next film, which he's already spent close to two years working on. Rumors indiciate that it may very well be like looking into the face of God. [/more snark]
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:26 PM on December 6, 2002


willnot - what if they merely expected you to purchase the painting? Would that be too much to ask?
posted by jonson at 5:51 PM on December 6, 2002


Sight unseen? Yeah. Even after having seen it? Possibly. Finance doesn't belong in this discussion though. The artist has apparently already said if they wanted the work on the internet, it'd be on the internet for free.

A better parallel to this discussion would be if the artist were to ask me not to take a photograph of the painting that is hanging on the wall at some party I go to. Yeah, I think that's extremely unreasonable.

The artist is bummed that people who are watching it on the internet aren't getting full appreciation of the work as it was intended to be presented. I think it's unreasonable to ever expect that the audience will always approach your work with the same reverence with which you approach it. If that's your attitude, then I suspect you are always going to be very disappointed and you may prefer some other line of work.
posted by willnot at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2002


That said, I don't think the link should be taken down. I repeat what I said before: the fact that you're circulating a rip of a sweet short film will interest people in Hertzfeldt's work.
As far as the law in concerned, that is a crappy reason and I think it is for the enire napter-esque argument. That is way too subjective. Sure, many people can say "I bought X b/c i heard it from Napster." But, honestly, what about artists like Britney Spears who may very likely be loosing money due to file-sharing (nevermind the fact she sucks or any snarkisms, but that is reality). The law cannot (or rather should not) be subjective based on "Well, band X can be pirated b/c it causes interest but band Y can't b/c it makes them lose money."

A better parallel to this discussion would be if the artist were to ask me not to take a photograph of the painting that is hanging on the wall at some party I go to. Yeah, I think that's extremely unreasonable.
The equivilant to that would be taking a video camera to the DVD and recording it that way (and in this case distributing it) which i don't exactly think is legal.
posted by jmd82 at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2002


I was making a joke about the quality argument by the way, regardless of the technical nature of compression, it's funny that a guy drawing stick figures aspires to perfect prints.

Our friend over at explodingdog selling his archival quality prints is of the same mind as Don.
posted by silusGROK at 9:18 PM on December 6, 2002


Vis10n: "Our friend over at explodingdog selling his archival quality prints is of the same mind as Don."

Not exactly. Sam says: "Will you be mad if i download pictures from your website and print my own, instead of buying a print?

i won't be mad. i encourage it. i am trying to offer a higher quality print to those who would like it."


That seems to me to be quite different from "If we wanted the films on the internet at all, they'd be at bitterfilms.com for free. "
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:56 PM on December 6, 2002


"So now, you can look at this site, and feel just a little bit bit better about yourself. Because you now know, without a doubt, there's at least a few people out there who are smaller, pettier, and less signifcant than you or anyone you've ever known. Have a hopefully happier weekend."
posted by quonsar at 5:30 AM on December 7, 2002


Where's that from? The Metafilter Faq?
posted by crunchland at 6:24 AM on December 7, 2002


XQUZYPHYR's blog.
posted by quonsar at 7:21 AM on December 7, 2002


Yeah....... He's talking about the site for some anti-Clinton group. I should probably not care, but why are you quoting that here?
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2002


y6y6y6: primarily because i'm a jerk and secondarily because i wasn't paying attention. i thought this MeTa thread was a petty nitpick. i thought this thread had been started by XQUZYPHYR. (it wasn't.) i had a similar opinion of certain prior MeTa threads that *were* by XQUZYPHYR. i went looking for something on his blog that would seem embarrassing out of context. worse, somebody (not XQUZYPHYR) did that same thing with one of my comments recently and i pissed and moaned grandly about it when it was me. XQUZYPHYR, you were basically standing on the corner myob and i drove by and whipped a bottle of beer at your head. i'm sorry for acting so petty. not to mention the litter.
posted by quonsar at 9:44 AM on December 7, 2002


quonsar - you a big man.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2002


Mistah Kurtz, he dead.
posted by Hildago at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2002


MetaTalk: Silly Hats Only.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:25 AM on December 7, 2002


quonsar - you a big man.
[slings penis over shoulder, spits, shuffles toward the door]
posted by quonsar at 11:33 AM on December 7, 2002


I think the argument to delete this post would be stronger if there wasn't such a strong precedent of posting to copyrighted material already set. This post surprised me a bit, but no one caused a big stir about it. If linking directly to copyrighted material bothers you, you probably should have said something earlier.
posted by dogwalker at 12:16 PM on December 7, 2002


That seems to me to be quite different from "If we wanted the films on the internet at all, they'd be at bitterfilms.com for free. "

You think maybe the hosting and bandwidth costs for hosting films might be in a different order of magnitude to stills?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2002


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