Big Media: "All Your Copyright Are Belong To Us!"

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Big Media

If you've shared anything on the Internet, whether in video, image, or textual form, you're probably at least glancingly familiar with copyright laws. It doesn't matter if it's accidental, if it's a small infringement, if you did it with or without the intent to make any money from the matter, or even if you credited the copyright owners: If it belongs to someone else, you're violating copyright.

In most cases, a violation will be handled simply by the removal of the content. Other places, like YouTube, will either mute a segment of video that has copyrighted material or, if the video is monetized, send that monetization to the original copyright holder. They won't overlook you. Big Media employs teams of lawyers who specialize in looking for these kinds of things in order to protect their intellectual properties (often referred to as "IP").

But now that we're deep into the era where anybody can create original content, we're forced to ask the question we never thought we'd have to ask: Who represents the independent creator against Big Media when Big Media mucks around with a creator's IP? It seems ridiculous on its face -- something out of a B movie or an A-Team episode -- that the Great and Powerful media moguls would dabble in the creations of Joe Average content creator. And yet, it still happens.

Warner Brothers / That Umbrella Guy

That Umbrella Guy is the nom de guerre of a YouTube podcaster who started out talking about pop culture and comics in general, and found a niche over the past two years covering the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial. Since launching his channel, he has grown his subscriber base to over 402 thousand viewers, and his livestreams regularly break 100 thousand views -- an enviable 25% subscriber-to-viewer ratio. That Umbrella Guy -- or "TUG" as his viewers call him -- has found himself embroiled in a number of media-backed battles during and after the aforementioned trial. The latest of these comes through Warner Brothers, after the company used TUG's content in a documentary about the trial -- not only without the content owner's permission, but against his express wishes.

"I declined to be in this production," says TUG in a video statement. "They invited me to be a part of it. I knew how this thing would go, though, so I didn't asnwer them. I made videos about it, making sure they understood, and I tagged them in Twitter telling them outright I wouldn't be part of it."

Perhaps thinking the video content could be shown in the documentary under Fair Use -- a not unreasonable stance -- or perhaps because they felt they had more lawyers, Warner Brothers included the video segments regardless in a documentary that aired on the Discover+ streaming service. But that was only a minor indignity. Once those videos became part of the documentary, the company had another surprise.

"Now they've decided the original videos themselves, they belong to them," says TUG, after having received a copyright claim from Warner on the original videos reproduced in the documentary.

What this currently means for the original videos -- and any videos that replay them to demonstrate the issue -- is that Discovery Communications will make all the monetization these videos generate. Given how streaming numbers for other Warner outlets have been shown to be inflated, one might humorously assume Warner might make more revenue off TUG's videos than from the actual documentary.

Netflix / Hart D. Fisher

Left: The Netflix recreation of Boneyard Press's Jeffrey Dahmer comic. Right: The actual cover from Boneyard Press.

On September 21, 2022, Netflix released Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, a miniseries exploring the story of the noted serial killer. More than just a biopic following the man, the series also delves into the lives of those who were affected by his actions -- or, in some cases, the actions of others who told the Dahmer story.

Hart D. Fisher is the publisher of Boneyard Press who, in 1992, released their biographical comic book, Jeffrey Dahmer, just months after the killer was sentenced. The release of the book sparked protests and even a burning of the second printing by the very distributor releasing the issue to comic book stores.

It stands to reason then that Netflix would want to feature this chapter of the Dahmer saga by highlighting that moment. But the way they went about it was a little unorthodox.

The original cover of the book featured an artist's portrait of Dahmer. However, in an attempt to have the portrait better resemble Evan Peters, the actor in the series, Netflix had their art department mock up a new cover for the book -- retaining the Boneyard Press trade dress and logo.

The move came as a complete surprise to Boneyard Press publisher and owner of streaming service Hart D. Fisher.

"It came out of nowhere," Fisher tells Critical Blast in a live video interview.. "I didn't even know this was in production. I didn't know it came out, no one talked to me. No one did the professional thing, which was 'Get your licensing in order.' I've had my comic books featured in John Waters' Serial Mom, Scream 2, the NatGeo special on the 90s... When I was on The Verminators, when I'm on news programs, I always sign a release when my comics were used."

"Ryan Murphy's production company didn't reach out to me at all, Fisher continues. "In fact, they scrubbed my name out of it. They refer to me, they put me down, they disparage my work, they photoshop the artwork on the covers to make it look different but kept all the logos and they put on their own actor."

Fisher does not believe the incident falls under the policy of Fair Use. "It's not Fair Use becuase they're misrepresenting my work," he says. "They're portraying it as if it's mine -- my logos are all on it. If they had just put my art up there they could say Fair Use. But they're altering it and they're portraying a fake thing and they're misrepresenting my work."

The Netflix series features the Jeffrey Dahmer comic book and the subsequent Jeffrey Dahmer vs. Jesus Christ comic, as well as the ensuing court cases and protests involving Boneyard Press.

Universal Music Group / Critical Blast

Yes, that's our own name there. Any other name would have sufficed, but there were simply too many to choose from.

Universal Music Group (UMG) has what one might call an "overzealous" Facebook monitor. Video content creators, such as ourselves, can easily have their content flagged on Facebook for copyright violation, on a flimsy "because we say so" on the part of UMG.

Our own experience with this came when UMG began flagging Critical Blast nightly streams, claiming both our intro and outro clips as theirs. Both clips are an identical animated scene involving the Critical Blast logo, with a jingle that builds to the lyrics "Your favorite podcast is Critical Blast!"

On a daily basis, we would receive notices on Facebook that the previous night's stream had been flagged. Initially, we responded with a mild dispute. The content was original, it had our own name in it, and UMG was mistake in its claim.

It's important to note that every single dispute against these claims -- which have numbered near 100 at the time of this writing -- have been accepted by UMG and the claims released, tacitly admitting that the claim was incorrect and that the content was owned by Critical Blast.

However, this did not stop UMG from continuing to claim the content on a regular basis, to the point that it became harrassment. Ultimately, the continued barrage from UMG led to our decision to cut Facebook from our video streaming outlets. And the release of claims always come after the topic being discussed has gone stale.

That ought to have ended that. But having no new content to attack, UMG then began going into our history, reaching back as far as a year, to find other videos to flag. To date, we have successfully disputed every one of these. However, a brief perusal of the UMG page on Facebook finds several Facebook users facing similar circumstances, indicating what would appear to be a widespread abuse of power on the platform, bordering on predation, on the part of the music giant.


It's difficult, but not impossible, to fight the media giants and win. Hart Fisher notes in our interview that he is the only creator to sue Marvel Comics and win in a trademark dispute over his comic book Dark Angel. Disputes filed on Facebook against UMG almost always end up with the claims eventually being released.

Your first line of defense is to utilize the dispute systems built into the platform you're using -- almost all of them have one. And while that may feel like a futile gesture, it can often be enough. But beyond that, don't be afraid to stray from the easy path. These companies have legal departments who are paid to be a watchdog for real copyright issues. If you're not getting satisfaction with the point-and-click methods of filing disputes, find the extension for the appropriate company's legal department and insist they explain their claim in detail. If you still come out on the losing end of that argument, take satisfaction that these lawyers are expensive and paid by the minute, so at least some of those expensive minutes were spent dealing with you. (I wouldn't go so far as to suggest calling them for each and every video dispute, but math may have a different idea.)

In the end, you have to stand up for your original content, or it will be taken from you.