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 Entura has since withdrawn its takedown notice.”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.

Brian Gabriel

Brian Gabriel

Brian Gabriel is a writer covering legal issues for Cartoon Brew.

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