Esquire's moving article about famed film critic Roger Ebert
is worth reading for many reasons -- detailing the unfortunate medical circumstances that have caused him to lose his voice, his jaw and his ability to eat, among other things, but not his ability to communicate or share his love of movies. Reading through the article, I had no intention of writing anything about it for Techdirt, but then I came to a story near the end, also noticed by Justin Levine, concerning how Disney apparently forced offline Ebert's first show after longtime sparring partner Gene Siskel died
Ebert keeps scrolling down [to his blog post commemorating Siskel, ten years after his death]. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: "Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted." Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what's happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it's not sadness surfacing. He's shaking. It's anger.
Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. "Those fu -- " she says, catching herself.
They think it's Disney again -- that they've taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.
This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn't press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they're just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he's still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he's shouting now. He's standing outside on the street corner and he's arching his back and he's shouting at the top of his lungs.
Notice that they think it's Disney again
. How nice of them to repeatedly take down the videos of Ebert's tribute to his close friend. Just like copyright law intended.