A firm representing Sony fraudulently attempted to remove the work of filmmakers from Vimeo, and temporarily succeeded. A firm representing Sony fraudulently attempted to remove the work of filmmakers from Vimeo, and temporarily succeeded.
Artist RightsLaw

Sony Tried to Screw Indie Filmmakers Over Their Crappy Film ‘Pixels’

Last week, London-based “anti-piracy” firm Entura International, acting on behalf of Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment, sent takedown notices to video-sharing website Vimeo, alleging several films containing the word “Pixels” in their titles infringed on Columbia’s copyright. Columbia produced and distributed the recent box office and critical dud, Pixels, starring Adam Sandler and a host of special effects.

Vimeo meekly complied and removed the films from its site, including such titles as Pantone Pixels, Detuned Pixels – Choco, Pixels – Life Buoy, Pixels Redeye @Kattering, and Love Pixels – VJLoops. Vimeo has now informed Cartoon Brew that it is restoring to its site those films that it had removed.

In its statement to Cartoon Brew, Vimeo announced that, “After users informed us that their videos did not contain any Pixels content, we reached out to Entura. Entura has since withdrawn its takedown notice.”

Entura had invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in demanding the removal of the offending films, apparently contending that the mere use of the word “pixels” in the titles constituted copyright infringement. Because the films do not contain copyrighted material — Pantone Pixels, for example, is an experimental art film, first published in 2011 –- and because, under U.S law, titles themselves are not copyrightable, Entura realized the weakness of its position and retreated.

The haphazard nature of its attack against supposed copyright infringement became apparent when it was pointed out that Entura had included in its takedown notice, Pixels Official Trailer (2015) – Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage. That’s right — Columbia’s own trailer for Pixels, Entura alleged, infringed on Columbia’s copyright.

This is not the first time Sony has aggressively acted in pursuing copyright infringement. In 2014, it demanded that YouTube remove indie filmmaker Colin Levy’s short film Sintel from its site, alleging the use of unauthorized material. YouTube at first complied, but soon thereafter restored the film to its site after Sony’s claims were proved to be without merit.

With such a track record, one might think Vimeo would be a bit more skeptical of any takedown notices sent by Entura on Sony’s behalf. It would be nice to think that Vimeo puts the interests of the filmmakers on its site before folding in the face of such an assault on the right of free expression.

Unfortunately, it is often simply easier for a company such as Vimeo, or even YouTube, to comply with the demands of large corporations stacked with their armies of attorneys, rather than to take them on at their own risk. As always, it is up to the filmmakers themselves to protect their rights, knowing no one else will do it for them.

  • Copyright Insanity

    This kind of of thing is especially deadly for internet critics who use clips from copyrighted movies for reviewing purposes. While using clips for that kind of thing is totally legal, the line where showing too much footage from a movie can be rather blurry. Studios can abuse the definition of that blurry line, and use their money and lawyers to bully ordinary people, and get unflattering reviews offline.

    • It is a sad world we live in where simply using a word without anything related to said work of another person or group could get you in trouble at all.

  • schwarzgrau

    I nearly forgotten, that Sony invented the plural of Pixel.

  • James VanDam

    Kind of remind me when “Candy Crush Saga” tried to sue all games that had the word “Saga” in them.

  • Grant Beaudette

    Not surprising a third party was involved. Such a dumb, scorched-earth action makes a lot more sense when someone is literally being paid to issue takedown notices.

  • Honest_Miss

    I don’t know if it’s fair to attack Vimeo so harshly. This was a solid business move on their part, particularly if Sony were to pursue legal recourse.

    Think about it. They took it down, did their research, then put it back up. They complied with the request without fighting or making jackasses of themselves, giving them credibility should it ever go to court. Once they knew they had fair legal standing they put the video back up.

    You have to think about it logically and like a business person, not like a martyr. Why would Vimeo die on a hilltop when there’s no reason to in the first place? It was a good move that shows solid understanding of how the court of law interprets action.

    • schwarzgrau

      That sounds pretty plausible to me.
      In this case I guess there is no harm done, but imagine you put your video on and it get featured on several blogs etc. and then comes a company like sony and vimeo will put it down for a week or two to check if there is a copyright infringement, even they can’t prove it before.
      I would like to know if they would react the same way if a normal user accuses another.

  • Ifudntknwme Udntndto

    Who cares, I wouldn’t watch Pixels if someone paid me to.

  • AnimationGuy

    Great PR Sony! I’m taking notes; make a crappy film, then s*** over other film makers. Brilliant.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    I really hate when big companies are allowed to abuse anti-piracy laws like this. It really affects small video creators who might not have the power or money to take legal action if they can’t get their videos back up. It happens quite a bit with online reviews who use clips and stills of the stuff they’re reviewing. Even though it’s legal to use them for review purposes, a lot of video hosting sites will cave to takedown notices without even checking to see if the video actually violates copyright law.

    • Funkybat

      Lawyers associated with the EFF or some other online free speech rights group should take on pro-bono an especially egregious case such as this, drag the ridiculousness of such artist harassment into the courts and the court of public opinion via media exposure. This kind of crap needs to never happen.

  • mechasus

    Frivolous trademark takedowns are nothing new. (They claimed copyright but names are trademarks.) Other companies guilty of this include the Susan G Komen charity (which has wasted millions of dollars trying to take down anything with “for the cure” in its name) and Red Bull (which had gone berserk on anything with a bull in it).

  • Garret Zenanko

    The power of the purse… I will never support another Sony film again.

  • jonhanson

    Copyright in America is such a mess. As an artist and consumer I understand both sides but it feels like the one group that consistently gets screwed over is independent artists who get pushed around by huge companies and don’t have the resources to do much when their own rights are pirated or used illegally.

  • Huh, I never knew Sony had owned a word that has been used for decades…

    Same as how I never knew the developer of Candy Crush Saga had owned the words ‘Candy’ and ‘Saga’. The more you know…

  • novabeatnik

    Isn’t it about time for the DMCA to go away.