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).

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Comments on “Paramount Flips Out That People Might 'Watch' Twitter Account Posting Top Gun Frame By Frame”

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That One Guy (profile) says:


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.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Eponymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Please give me a button

I want a button, which, when pushed, will cause “Hollywood” 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.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Boojum (profile) says:

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…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!!

Zonker says:

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.


Anonymous Coward says:

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.

scotts13 (profile) says:

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.

Marc says:

Top Gun vs Psycho

I wanted to do this too … got the idea the other day and then I checked and I read the story about someone doing it before with the movie “Top Gun” and getting in trouble after about a month.

I was all set up to do it, created the account, banner, description, avatar, etc. I would have done it for the movie ‘Psycho’ – 1960, in black and white with subtitles …. posting about 12 images per day, one picture per second …. it would have taken about a year to a year and a half to go through the whole movie …. I know it’s crazy but I love the film so much, it’s my favorite and this way I get to analyse it really well too.

… but then I checked and I saw that I would probably get in trouble and the account would get shut down so I scrapped the project …. Universal studios distributed Psycho (1960) … I was thinking of writing them an email … and describe my Twitter project, hey, the worst they could do is say ‘NO !!’ and it would give them a good story to tell at lunch break, laughing hard ! ????

Ok, I just calculated … if I had posted one picture, one frame for every second of film … 24 frames per second … it means I am not really posting the ENTIRE film … I’m just posting 1 out of 24, 1 frame for every 24 … per second, not sure if that makes a difference … if I post only 4.16% of the actual movie, not 100% … like the Top Gun guy …

Probably doesn’t change much for Universal studios …. but I just find this idea intriguing … ???? I was all set up and ready to do it but the only thing that stopped me was the Legal side, I hadn’t thought of that unfortunately …

Hope someone sees my messages and can reply a little something … ????

My email :

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