Copyright Worries Threaten The Best Thing To Come Out Of The New Star Wars Movies

from the MST3K2.0? dept

If you haven't seen Red Letter Media's excellent reviews of the Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace and The Attack of the Clones, then you might want to carve out three hours out of your day and watch them (the reviews are 70-minutes and 90-minutes long, respectively) -- they're incredible. (Warning: he does use some NSFW language occasionally.)

So, it's very sad to hear that Mike Stoklasa, the writer & director of the Red Letter Media reviews, is considering not producing any more reviews, out of fear of being slapped with a copyright lawsuit. Stoklasa says:
"The thing is, I'm no lawyer. But I had someone actually talk to a copyright lawyer, and they didn't know what to make of the reviews. It's a new thing, You can get away with using a clip from a movie for the purpose of review or commentary, but can you dissect an entire film like that? There's commentary and it's part satire [because of the character, Mr. Plinkett] and part review and part educational as well because there's elements of filmmaking insights."
Stoklasa's reviews are innovative and entertaining and take movie reviewing to a whole new level by remixing movie clips into the review itself. In doing so, they are emerging as a whole new art form. While more traditional movie reviews and satire can use clips of movies as a result of fair use, Stoklasa could be treading on new ground with his works. That said, this could be an interesting case if he were to get sued, because he would likely win, which would then redraw the boundaries for fair use, which would be a great thing. So, Mike Stoklasa, please don't let the threat of copyright lawsuits stop you from continuing to produce your excellent reviews -- to do so would be a travesty.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Modplan (profile), Apr 13th, 2010 @ 7:45pm

    See: MST3K

    Though maybe they simply got the "rights" on the cheap simply because they were crap films. I know with Rifftrax they don't sell movies alongside their riffs, except for short films which are public domain (a lot of old informational videos and the like) and 1 or 2 DVD's.

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 7:46pm

    Please please please please PLEASE don't let him stop doing these reviews.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 7:52pm

    That said, this could be an interesting case if he were to get sued, because he would likely win, which would then redraw the boundaries for fair use, which would be a great thing. So, Mike Stoklasa, please don't let the threat of copyright lawsuits stop you from continuing to produce your excellent reviews -- to do so would be a travesty.

    Well, in NJ we just passed a law that says pedestrians have the right of way in the crosswalk, but I wouldn't recommend someone walk out in from of cars so they could win in court. You might win but it will still hurt.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 7:55pm

    there is a point where a review is no longer review. I think it was about 65 minutes earlier in the 70 minute review.

     

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    OldGeek, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 8:27pm

    Really

    "this could be an interesting case if he were to get sued, because he would likely win", only if he had the money to fight. They always win because no one can afford to fight for that long.

     

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    Megore, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 8:27pm

    Dude I'm gonna be soo pissed if he stops making his reviews. and stfu TAM no one likes you.

     

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    Ian (profile), Apr 13th, 2010 @ 8:34pm

    Sadly, it's his cash on the line, and with figures like in the millions on the line, even a 99% chance of winning is a poor gamble. This is especially true because after legal bills, even if he wins he loses.

    If he quits, add it to the list of things you put in the letters you write your politicians. You guys do write letters, right?

     

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      Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:15am

      Re:

      Yes, actually, I (and some others from where I would hope) do.

      Not that they pay too much attention to me or all the support I cite. Every once in a rare while I will get an actual response and not just some simple auto response looking email saying "I will vote for the people" which looks like they never even read my email.

       

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    Jupiter (profile), Apr 13th, 2010 @ 8:43pm

    The studios don't need to sue him. They need to hire him for quality control. He's not doing anything wrong - and he's doing everything right. Lucas needs this guy on his shoulder telling him when he's doing something crappy. The only problem here is the guy didn't get to the movie until AFTER it was released. The guy's only telling them how to make good movies.

     

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    peter, Apr 13th, 2010 @ 10:12pm

    That was so awesome, thanks for letting me know it exists.

    I can't stop watching (unlike the movies where I could).

    Many thanks for letting me know this was out there.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 12:57am

    While some of the attempts at humor are a bit annoying, these are valuable commentary and critique. Even though there are a great number of clips, this is definitely fair use. It's not a mere recital of the film despite the fact that you do get a fairly detailed summary of the plot, there are still large chunks missing, out of order, chopped up, and without dialogue. These are in no way a substitute for the films, and serve a much different purpose. It's an explanation why these films are so unsatisfying that's primarily aimed at people who are already familiar with the movie.

     

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    tfp, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 1:45am

    Copyright & lawyers

    Why don't you lend him your lawyers to defend his right to free speech - er, aimed at Mike.

     

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    Brian, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 3:57am

    Stupid videos! I nearly wet myself because of how ridiculously funny they are. This may be the best thing I've ever seen on the internet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    How is what he is doing any different from what Universities do in their film classes?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 6:17am

    What's wrong with your faaaaaace?!?!?!?

     

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    Nina Paley (profile), Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:09am

    Red Letter Legal Defense Fund

    The Red Letter reviews are among my favorite things on the intertubes. I think Mike Stoklasa could get a good Legal Defense Fund going if he merely asked. To watch his reviews is to love them, and that love means people would come to his defense. I'd contribute, if it came to that.

    I also expect he could easily get a very good pro bono legal team, because such a case would set such an important precedent and garner so much publicity. So fight, Mike, FIGHT!!

     

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    Just Bob, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 7:17am

    thanks for the link

    "The second biggest problem with the Phantom Menace is the whole story and the way it was told". OMG, this guy is brilliant! Looks like I know how I'm going to spend the rest of my morning...

     

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    Stephen, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 11:04am

    video dissertations

    If he were writing long form reviews of the movies, he could simply paste into his narration descriptions of the crap, er, action on the screen, but it would have the immediate visceral effect of seeing just how bad these movies are. This is the future of reviewing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 3:47am

    god these were hilarious, i had to watch all of em

     

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    Cenaris, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:24am

    Association with disturbia.

    I don't think it's so much the idea of copyright issues... Well, actually it has a lot to do with that. But I think it also has something to do with the guy inserting an obsessive serial killer subplot into his reviews. As much as I love the entertainment that comes out of it (and they do make the reviews a lot, lot more interesting to watch), I don't think George Lucas wants something as wildly popular as these videos associating his franchise with the idea of a fictional serial killer/hostage holder reviewing and picking the films apart.

    In the end I love the reviews, and it's obvious it's sour grapes on Lucas' side of things for making a few films that are so flawed. If you note, the reviewer has very little negetive things to say about the original films (even though they also have faults) and Lucas can't milk the old ones anymore because they are not the focus of the series majority revenue.

    So in the end it's all about the reviews ripping the films apart and Lucas throwing all his toys out of the pram and being an idiot about things because of it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 7:49pm

    While his reviews would currently win a copyright lawsuit, once the ACTA Treaty is ratified, he would not. Wikipedia has more info on ACTA which is a clever way for intellectual property owners to get around existing fair-use court decisions by means of policy laundering.

     

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