Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pink Munky: "What's the matter with you, hat?"

A little history:
I edited and produced the music video for the Pink Munky track "What's the matter with you, hat?" in February, 2007. Both the song and video feature excerpts of tape recorded lectures delivered by L. Ron Hubbard on the theology, methodology and historiography of Scientology.

Between February and December of 2007, the video circulated widely on the internet. Having received a lot of positive feedback concerning "The Friend of Mankind," a video essay experiment I had put together roughly a year prior, I decided to post the video on YouTube. There, it received similar attention from like-minded critics of Scientology and web-based awareness communities.

Copyright infringement:
On December 4, 2007, access to the video was disabled by YouTube, Inc. By way of third party notification, it was contended that the video infringed on copyrights owned by the L. Ron Hubbard Library.

The video does indeed make use of a great deal of visual material owned by others. I can make no claim to the copyright ownership of video excerpts taken from television broadcasts spanning nearly 40 years. Were Viacom, ITV or individual producers/networks to challenge the video on grounds of copyright infringement, there would be less recourse for an argument in response to be made.

However, the party claiming infringement in this particular instance is the L. Ron Hubbard Library, and since the Library does not own the rights to the broadcast images of Hubbard used, I am left to assume that their complaint hinges on the use of audio from the aforementioned lectures. The argument to be made here is that I am entitled to defend the content of my video under Section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States--Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use. (

The waters of Fair Use are always murky ones. However, the
Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law of 1961 cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” ( - revised July, 2006)

My take:
I am inclined to believe that my video (and by extension, the Pink Munky track) does constitute generally a "criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" and presents more specifically "a parody of some of the content of the work parodied."

That being said, I am not resolved to any particular course of action. I am confident that if I were to submit a thorough counter notice to YouTube, Inc., the access restrictions to the video could be removed. There appears to be ample ground for a counterargument to be made to the L. Ron Hubbard Library's claim of copyright infringement. However, I am equally confident that a victory in the internet sphere will propel the copyright holders towards litigation in the much less democratic venue of the United States justice system. Excuse me if I am decidedly more fatalistic towards my prospects in court.

I appreciate all of the (positive and negative) criticism that "What's the matter with you, hat?" has received this year. I hope that we can continue to freely discuss it and its extended commentaries. I have also felt very touched by the interest/action taken by like-minded people in the short time since the video was first targeted. Thanks to all of you. If you can be patient with me, I may just be able to refresh my criticism with a new project. This baffling ordeal has already refreshed the pleasure I take in representing the wog perspective.