Paramount Flips Out That People Might 'Watch' Twitter Account Posting Top Gun Frame By Frame

from the because-that-beats-the-movie-experience? dept

Over the last week or so, there have been a bunch of news stories about the (now gone, as we'll explain in a moment) twitter account, 555uhz, which had been tweeting every half an hour what appeared to be a captioned frame-by-frame image from the classic 1980s movie, Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise. It was slightly weird and quirky, like plenty of random Twitter accounts. This one had picked up a little over 6,000 followers, but late last week Paramount began sending DMCA notices to the account, leading to Twitter shutting down the account entirely, likely for getting so many infringement claims.
We are writing to you on behalf of our client, Paramount Pictures Corporation (“Paramount”). Paramount is the owner of copyright and other intellectual property rights in and to the “Top Gun” motion picture (hereinafter referred to as "Top Gun"). No one is authorized to copy, reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use Top Gun without the express written permission of Paramount.

Notwithstanding this, it has come to our attention that a user of your website, @555uhz, is distributing the Top Gun film, frame by frame, via your website. The following URLs are some examples from the user’s Twitter account, with additional frames being uploaded continuously:
But, really, this seems like a massive overreaction by Paramount -- doing its typical "if we didn't approve it, it must be taken down" approach to copyright. In what world is seeing this going to somehow harm Paramount?
Is it really likely that someone will follow along with the one tweet every half an hour and decide they no longer need to see the actual movie? While it's anecdotal, in the last week when there was so much buzz about the account, I saw multiple people mention that because of the tweets, they wanted to go out and rewatch the movie (with at least one person admitting to never having seen it before). So, if anything, it seemed to generate more attention for the movie. And, just like typical shortsighted copyright maximalists, even things that act as good promotion must be killed "because... piracy."

Way to go Paramount lawyers. You've once again used copyright maximalism to hold back your own marketing.

Separately, it seems that a fairly strong argument can be made that this is fair use. It seems to be pretty clearly transformative. It's hard to see how it harms Paramount. It's not commercial. True, assuming that the full thing was tweeted, the "amount" of the work weighs against fair use, as does "the nature of the copyrighted work" (a movie), but on balance there's a reasonable argument that this particular setup would be considered fair use.

As a random aside, there's been some random speculation as to why the account was named @555uhz, but the folks over at Vice have a pretty clear explanation, discussing the framerate being shown. After first noting that a typical movie is 24 frames per second (fps), Vice calculates the actual framerate of the tweets:
But, the real framerate of @555uhz isn’t 24 frames per second, nor is the Twitter account sampling 24 frames per second. The real framerate is the rate at which the account posts frames to Twitter, just like the real framerate in a movie is the rate at which a spool of film projects images onto a screen. We can figure the Top Gun tweet-rate out easily enough: 48 tweets a day, two tweets an hour. That winds up being 2/60 or .034 frames per minute. Now, convert that to frames per second: .000555. Look familiar?

Frames per second is a more specific version of the unit Hertz (Hz), and 1 Hz is just one full cycle of some periodic thing (like sound waves, for example) happening in one second. So we actually have .000555 Hz, which converts nicely to 555 microHertz (uHz).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    9.04

    That's how many years it would take to 'watch' the entire movie, frame by frame, so the idea that 'watching' it this way presents in any form a threat, or competition, is beyond laughable.

    Heck, if anything, something like this would likely drive people to go out and buy the film, just so they can watch it at a more sane pace.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re: 9.04

    That's how many years it would take to 'watch' the entire movie, frame by frame, so the idea that 'watching' it this way presents in any form a threat, or competition, is beyond laughable.


    That's not right. As the Vice link explains it wasn't really doing every frame. The whole thing would have taken a few months.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: 9.04

    So not quite as insane as I thought, but still, watching a movie over the courts of several months... the only people likely to do that are almost certainly already die-hard fans who own the movie already, or curious people who will likely pick up the movie after the frames spark their interest, neither case likely to present any competition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    So...

    So the person doing this was also showing he was much better at math than Hollywood as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: 9.04

    "True, assuming that the full thing was tweeted, the "amount" of the work weighs against fair use, as does "the nature of the copyrighted work" (a movie), but on balance there's a reasonable argument that this particular setup would be considered fair use. "

    Interesting enough though if you think about it. If we knew exactly how many frames were in the actual film then compared it to the number of frames posted. I think even without the actual numbers you would find that they actually didn't post the entire work as they omitted the vast majority of the frames. So the "amount" of the work used wouldn't actually work weight against a claim of fair use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:43pm

    Please give me a button

    I want a button, which, when pushed, will cause "Hollywood" et.al. to cease to exist.

    It can't possibly die fast enough to suit me. And believe me, I've done my part: zero movies purchased. zero movies attended. I haven't even bothered to torrent the damn things because nearly all of them are shit anyway, and I'm too busy to watch the ones that aren't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Well...

    Thanks Paramount, I liked that movie.

    Guess I won't be watching it ever again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Well...

    I think the answer is to Streisand this puppy. Have twitter accounts pop up everywhere with Paramount movie frames in them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    mcinsand, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:00pm

    It's not just Paramount

    One of the many problems with our existing copyright and trademark law is the holder's responsibility to enforce those privileges. Yes, this is a gross overreaction, but Paramount is not totally to blame. If they know that this is happening and do nothing, then their case against someone that actually does violate copyright becomes weaker.

    Several of us got a long lecture on this years ago when we were altering our company logo for internal presentations. One VP had dictated a standard background that made the logo difficult to see, so we altered the logo for better visibility. Lawyers descended post haste to tell us to revert to the trademarked logo or not use it at all. Then, they went through a long lecture over how this goes back to European common law, and the holder of such exclusive IP protections cannot treat the privileges casually without risking losing the 'IP.'

    Bear in mind that I am not defending Paramount, since I don't see why they could not provide written approval. However, they do have strong motivation given our sloppy legal framework.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    It's ridiculous how these movie studios refuse to let the internet provide free advertising for them - then I remember all they really care about is control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:06pm

    Re: It's not just Paramount

    That's trademark law, not copyright law. Fair use of a copyrighted work does not weaken the copyright at all.

    And I don't believe what you propose is even true of trademark law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Eponymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 9.04

    I'm all for this, but with that said... I think there is an argument to be made that if you show all the key scenes with the associated dialog you are basically transmitting the majority of the work (the narrative work) even though majority of the (film) frames were not used. On the technical level with digital video these key scenes (keyframes) may represent the near majority of the work for they correspond with the i-frames, leaving out the delta frames which is the minority data set in the work. I'm just playing devil's advocate here saying that multiple, different challenges could be mounted against your opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    Re: It's not just Paramount

    There are provisions that are like that in Trademark Law where failure to defend your mark weakens your assertion that you are using the mark but I don't believe those exist in Copyright Law. Dealing with the logo for the company is more likely about Trademark anyway than Copyright so that is more likely what the lawyers were talking about in your case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Pegr, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    Re: It's not just Paramount

    That applies to trademarks, not copyrighted works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 9.04

    I was just pointing out that by a literal definition the majority of the work would not be used and therefore the an argument could be made that since that majority was not used, the provisions concerning using the majority of the work weighing against an argument for fair use would not be applicable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    The tweeter should change his name to 55umustache and repost every single frame, with all the actors sporting mustaches. Is that transformative enough for those Paramount douches?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 9.04

    Of course this argument would completely confuse Hollywood because they suck at math anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Boojum (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    I'm not so sure that this counts as fair use. If I printed out a single image of the Top Gun movie and began handing it out on the street for free then I don't feel it is transformative. I'm putting out exactly what was was in the movie, if a small part of it.

    I don't think that handing out individual frames via twitter is that different than passing them out as a printed out picture.

    Also, I think the courts have upheld Disney's stance that a single Mickey Mouse stuck on the side of a building runs afoul of both copyright and trademark.

    Now if he had commented on the frames or otherwise included some information he might have a case for it being a scholarly work...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    jeremy, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:47pm

    Re: It's not just Paramount

    You are WRONG, and confusing trademark law with copyright law. Trademarks need to be protected or they can be lost. Copyright does not. This is basic copyright law "101", yet folks keep erroniously conflating trademakr and copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:03pm

    Dont you realize how this is piracy:
    When he is done uploading the pictures frame for frame he will start to upload the sound sample for sample.
    Then anyone can put the film together again and watch it normaly.
    See - easy illegal distribution

    Quick we need to get the politicians to do something about this filthy piratesite named twitter!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:05pm

    Re:

    I would say he transformed a movie into a kind of graphic novel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:28pm

    this is the sort of absurd paranoia that the studios and labels are now griped by. if ever there was something so bloody ridiculous to get het up about, i dont know what it is!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Re: It's not just Paramount

    Hey, about that button that makes Hollywood stop existing? How about another one that makes people stop saying "it's not their fault, the law makes them send takedown notices and sue people"? Because every time I read that, it's like watching Hitler set puppies on fire.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Boojum (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Only the copyright holder has the right to make an adaptation, is my understanding of copyright work. So no, that he transformed it into a kind of graphic novel doesn't count.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    AjStechd (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:48pm

    Just for spite, I watched it again for free. :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 9.04

    They also completely omitted the soundtrack, and included a script which probably wasn't in the original.

    Actually, Paramount would have a much better DMCA claim against the closed captioning than against the frames, as they appear to have tweeted a large portion of the *text* without permission.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:45pm

    Paramount is just upset that the sudden renewed interest in the original is interfering with their plans to film a reboot of Top Gun as a trilogy staring Justin Timberlake as "Maverick", Ashton Kutcher as "Goose", and Kristen Stewart as "Charlie".

    Spoilers for the reboot:
    The action sequences are generally the same, but extended with over the top CGI special effects and 10 times the explosions. Maverick and Goose are in an openly gay relationship and only reluctantly promoted to the flight academy because they are the only ones qualified after "Stinger" quits. Maverick and Charlie meet and Maverick and Goose go on a double date with Charlie and her partner singing "Who Let The Dogs Out" in a Karaoke bar.

    Maverick and Charlie inadvertently sleep together one night to the song "Whisper" by the Ying Yang twins. When Goose finds out Maverick cheated on him, they have a big argument and break up the night before Goose hits his head during the flat spin ejection scene, which leaves Goose hospitalized in a coma.

    Maverick almost quits over his guilt and remorse hoping beyond hope that Goose recovers, but stays in the program where they are suddenly called to engage a pack of advanced robotic fighters supplied to the terrorists by aliens (because 9/11 and Scientology) and Maverick is teamed up with Charlie as his new RIO. Maverick panics when they go into another flat spin but recover and Charlie talks him back into the fight where they emerge victorious.

    Maverick and Charlie land to find Goose has recovered. Maverick proposes to Goose, who accepts, and they have a big gay wedding. The End.

    /satire

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:59pm

    Re: It's not just Paramount

    The real problem is that there is no requirement of rationality on copyright... of course if there were, there probably would be no such thing, but I digress.

    The idea that this meaningfully infringes in any way on Paramount dubious right to distribute the specific sequence of 1s and 0s that makes up Top Gun is ludicrous.

    Of course with every media company's compulsion to protect their copyright, trademark, brand experience (whatever that is) or whatever dipshit their marketing department trots out these days, Paramount doesn't see anything wrong with it. So they go right ahead and file DMCA notices, never realizing just how stupid it really is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 7:31pm

    Re:

    You forgot someone "heroically" sacrificing his life for absolutely no reason

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

    555uhz: That son of a bitch cut me off!
    ---
    Paramount-Iceman: You really are a cowboy.
    555uhz-Maverick: Whatís your problem, Paramount?
    Paramount-Iceman: Youíre everyoneís problem. Thatís because every time you tweet, youíre unsafe. I donít like you because youíre dangerous.
    555uhz-Maverick: Thatís right! ParaÖ mount. I am dangerous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 12:35am

    Re:

    "I don't feel it is transformative"

    Others would. Which is why fair use is a subjective defence available in court, not something that an algorithm or blanket statement can quantify.

    "Also, I think the courts have upheld Disney's stance that a single Mickey Mouse stuck on the side of a building runs afoul of both copyright and trademark."

    A decoration on permanent physical structure is something of a different concept, no?

    "Now if he had commented on the frames"

    There's a good argument that the entire experiment WAS the commentary.

    Of course, since the account was merely shut down, we'll never get to see the actual verdict of a court or an official reason for the experiment. There's no realistic way this would harm Paramount or their movie, a good argument that it might actually help them, and nobody involved in the experiment stood to profit either way. Just another example of free speech shut down because someone dared to invoke a piece of culture owned by a corporation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 1:04am

    Re: Re: It's not just Paramount

    And they get away with it, so why not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 3:00am

    Re: 9.04

    Considering the movie should be in the Public Domain already...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    alternatives(), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 3:03am

    Re: Well...

    Why stop with that 1 movie?

    Why not stop consuming their products all together?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2014 @ 4:42am

    You're all thinking too deeply

    If Paramount decided to embrace piracy as easy marketing, then the people at Marketing would get the big Christmas bonuses and the lawyers at IP would be out of a job.
    So yes, they had to respond and shut it down hard, if only to not lose their jobs. No big reason, just a human one.

    Even more, Paramount paying the lawyers for 'doing their jobs' and billing probably several hours just for this one take-down notice, that actually might have generated some revenue, is considered somehow a more reasonable approach, even if it leaves them in the red. Talk about being a capitalistic corporation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    scotts13 (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    I'm in violation!

    I remember scenes from that movie very well, almost frame-by-frame. Therefore, a COPY of those frames must exist in my mind. Now, several times I've described those parts of the film to third parties; that's distribution. More than likely, at least one person I talked to decided not to see the film based on my description - I've interfered with the business interests of Paramount Studios.

    Get it out of my head! I CAN'T STOP INFRINGING! (Applies ball-peen hammer to cerebral coretex)

    I feel much better now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    will no one think of the poor film editors ?

    he is obviously going to print out each frame and staple it into an animated flipbook; *then* who will ever want to go see the moving pictures when they have the equivalent right in their own hands ? ? ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re:

    You'd think studios would sell flip books of famous scenes from movies. Be pretty neat to have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Tim, Feb 26th, 2014 @ 3:02pm

    The twitter account is working again, but the last frame posted was yesterday, and there are missing frames because of the copyright notices.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This