Yes Men Release Movie Via BitTorrent To Avoid Legal Hassles

from the getting-it-out-there-is-most-important dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the ridiculous hoops that filmmakers need to go through these days just to get “E&O” or “errors and omissions” insurance. Basically, the lawyers want to make sure that anyone displaying the movie won’t get sued, so they force you to get this kind of insurance. To get E&O insurance, you basically have to go through the movie, frame by frame, and show how every single possible bit of content that might possibly lead to a lawsuit has been “cleared” by the rights holder. This includes some ridiculous things like, if your movie shows someone walking down the street, that the businesses seen behind them have signed a legal “ok.” It’s pretty ridiculous, and many indie filmmakers just don’t bother — making it more difficult (if not impossible) to get their films into traditional distribution channels.

Of course, these days, there are more ways around this — such as releasing the film yourself online using BitTorrent or some other system. TechnoMage points out that this is the path taken by notorious pranksters, The Yes Men for their latest movie: releasing it via BitTorrent, and asking for donations. Of course The Yes Men have some advantage in that they’re already pretty well known, but the legal troubles they faced in getting the movie out were interesting. There’s the unique situation in that they’re currently being sued by the US Chamber of Commerce for their prank fake press conference, where they pretended to be US CoC officials changing the organization’s policy on global warming. The movie includes footage from that event — and lawyers flipped out about showing such footage while the lawsuit was ongoing.

Of course, stuff like that may be unique to The Yes Men — but other situations, involving copyright, are not. Take for example this bit of info:

“For us to get our ‘errors and omissions insurance’ required for any distributor to take it, we had to clear the rights on all sorts of stuff we should not really have had to… including music written in the 17th century, which apparently because of some kind of law in Austria was not public domain according to the interpretation of insurance industry lawyers!

This is a problem many face. It’ll be interesting to see if more indie filmmakers jump on alternative distribution platforms not just because they’re more efficient, but also because it gets them around having to deal with overbearing E&O insurance issues.

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Comments on “Yes Men Release Movie Via BitTorrent To Avoid Legal Hassles”

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abc gum says:

It's all about the money

“This includes some ridiculous things like, if your movie shows someone walking down the street, that the businesses seen behind them have signed a legal “ok.””

Business has to agree to being in a movie and to hell with any little people. This points to the fact that if you have no money, you have no rights. Plain and simple. I would guess that if a movie had, by chance, a rich person in the background, said person would be asked for their ok.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Here's the TORRENT

This is the future, and may have every success – before a jealous publishing lobby convinces the corrupt state to tax the Internet to ‘compensate’ their cartel buddies for the loss of their 18th century monopoly they thought would last forever.

Bob (profile) says:

Hmmm. Clever film makers versus the truth

I enjoy the Yes Men, but at a certain point they seem to cross some line. Is it really helpful to lie about who you are and get people to appear on screen under false pretenses? That’s their big problem here. They lied to people to get interviews and then they make fun of the interviewees on screen. No wonder the lawyers are worried about getting sued. No matter how much I may like the Yes Men, I’ve got to wonder if this is really fair or good for the system.

Anonymous Coward says:

From what I hear in the U.S. most cities require you to get a permit and to hire their cops on the scene to ensure that no city ordinances are broken. You have to pay those cops and if those cops are unionized you have to pay union dues as well? Technically speaking, even if you own your home, in many cities you need a permit to film in your home or on your own property even since it’s technically city property? It’s crazy.

Jon Lawrence (profile) says:

Re: Re: Citation?

Actually, he’s not wrong. Filming even on private property in Los Angeles is not legal if it’s “for commercial purposes,” and as granted under LA County Municipal Code Chapter 22.56.1925.

While I would not say this is pervasive or widespread in total terms of areas of the US, it IS fairly common in large cities, or any towns that see a fair amount of film or television production – that yes, even on private property, you will be required to pay for a permit.

If you are doing anything during shooting that the city or county “decides” you need a monitor on, you will have a police office or fire safety officer at your location, on your payroll (expect $400-700/day for those guys, each).

Todd Rather says:

This is exciting news. It’s good to see that more and more artists and creative people are deciding to utilize the BitTorrent technology for legal purposes. There’s a whole list of torrent trackers where you can download movies…

That’s not necessarily a definitive list, I’m sure there’s a lot more. But the point is that BitTorrent is providing a new distribution outlet for filmmakers and that’s great.

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