Wikileaks Attempts To Bully Wikileaks Documentary With C&D Notices

from the about-face dept

The history of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is a tortured one, to be sure. Once the darling of the left for exposing important misdeeds by the American government, the site then became a tool for the right in the last Presidential election with the publishing of emails stolen in a hack of the DNC. From there, some have accused Wikileaks of being an arm of Moscow's intelligence efforts, while the America government has made noise about prosecuting the site and Assange under the Espionage Act. Still others support the site for its efforts in exposing the secrets governments wish to keep hidden from the citizens to whom they are beholden.

Through it all, Assange and Wikileaks have remained firm in their mission to expose information and secrets that were previously kept from the public. Except, it seems, when that information has to do with Wikileaks itself. According to the makers of a documentary about Wikileaks entitled Risk, on the topic of Wikileaks, Wikileaks is chiefly interested not in open journalism and unvarnished truth, but rather on its own image. And apparently the site is willing to wield legal threats and lawyers in a way that is almost absurdly hypocritical.

We are the producers of Risk , a documentary film about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. We unequivocally defend WikiLeaks’ journalistic right to publish true and newsworthy information...We were disturbed, however, to learn that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks sent cease and desist letters to our distributors demanding they stop the release of Risk: “We therefore demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all images of the Named Participants and that you desist from this or any other infringement of the rights of the Named Participants in the future.”

From there, the filmmakers go into what lengths they went to work directly with Wikileaks and Assange on the film starting back in 2011. Assange himself provided content to be used in the film and even signed a licensing agreement to use Wikileaks footage for it. Some people involved with Wikileaks requested not to be in the film and the filmmakers complied. People from the site and their lawyers have been shown screenings of the film before every regional release, including as recently as April of this year. There is no claim made thus far that any of the content of the film is false.

So, what is the weighty harm over which Wikileaks is firing off C&Ds? Its image and the image of Assange.

Since 2016, Assange and his lawyers have repeatedly demanded that we remove scenes from the film in which Assange speaks about the two women who made sexual assault allegations against him in 2010 and Sweden’s investigation which has since been discontinued. WikiLeaks’ comments have consistently been about image management, including: demands to remove scenes from the film where Assange discusses sexual assault allegations against him; requests to remove images of alcohol bottles in the embassy because Ecuador is a Catholic country and it looks bad; requests to include mentions of WikiLeaks in the 2016 U.S. presidential debates; and, requests to add more scenes with attorney Amal Clooney because she makes WikiLeaks look good.

The opinion that Assange is an egomaniac has been floating around for some time. With actions like these, there seems to be some evidence of that. But that charge aside, what should be abundantly clear is that the ideals of the site appear to have fallen by the wayside when it comes to a simple documentary that has refused to cinematically stroke Wikileaks to the degree it wishes. That's not a good look for a site that survives on people's belief that it is committed to open and honest information.

In fact, this looks to be the sort of thing that the Wikileaks from years gone by would have dug into and exposed.


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  1. icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 3:40am

    Tea Snarf

    You owe me a new keyboard as mine is currently swimming in tea. Sigh, no need for a neti pot today.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 3:59am

    "The opinion that Assange is an egomaniac has been floating around for some time."

    So is the opinion that he's a rapist. No story about Wikileaks/Assange should fail to mention that he's a sexual predator who assaults and abuses women.

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

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Túi Lọc Bụi (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 3:59am

    Wikileaks is...

    Wikileaks is a rockstar bro!

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

  4. identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 23 Jun 2017 @ 4:23am

    Whoops.

    Assange should have taken more care to assert that his comments were either on or off the record. Interviewers generally respect that. WRT bottles of alcohol, either cut down man, or at least stash them behind the bust of Pallas. That's what I do.

    The other stuff regarding the 2016 election and inclusion of Mrs. Clooney, sorry but that's 100% the discretion of the film makers. It is their documentary...

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 4:46am

    Drinking Catholilc

    "requests to remove images of alcohol bottles in the embassy because Ecuador is a Catholic country"

    Wait, I thought drinking was the best part about being Catholic!

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

  6. identicon
    Annonymouse, 23 Jun 2017 @ 4:48am

    Iam confused.
    Is this a documentary or a Hollywood Documentary?

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

  7. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:30am

    *nails up the battered 'Look power causes a form of brain damage' sign*

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:37am

    Re: Drinking Catholilc

    If it were the Irish embassy, the Catholics would insist on adding bottles to the scene.

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

  9. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:39am

    Re:

    Yes.

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

  10. identicon
    The Flash, 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:40am

    Re:

    Is there any proof that he actually committed rape?

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

  11. icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:44am

    WIkileaks lost it a long time ago

    When Wikileaks became all about Assange and not about the leaks, they basically lost the plot.

    What is remarkable for a site that is all about transparency and revealing everything no matter who gets hurt (or possibly killed), Assange has not only not been forthcoming about his own issues, but has chosen to hide out and avoid facing them in the real world.

    He lost the moral right to C&D anything a long time ago.

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

  12. identicon
    Avideogameplayer, 23 Jun 2017 @ 6:16am

    Irony, thy name is wikileaks...

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 6:22am

    Re:

    Because he did not use a prophylactic?

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

  14. identicon
    Anon, 23 Jun 2017 @ 7:52am

    Re: Drinking Catholilc

    Yes, when I think of Catholic countries - Italy, France, Spain, Ireland - their choice of rink isn't Coca Cola... I tend to think f them as alcohol consumers, usually wine (except Ireland). Abstention is more of a fundamentalist Protestant thing - the Puritan ethic, "if it's fun, it must be sinful".

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    Did you read the SMSs the women in question texted him after the alleged rape took place?

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Drinking Catholilc

    I recently found out I'm part Irish. I teak]dd idee sssssssssssssssssssssss

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

  17. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 9:29am

    Re: Wikileaks lost it a long time ago

    Maybe we need something like The Circle that's about a Wikileaks lookalike rather than a Facebook/Apple mashup. :P

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 12:47pm

    Could Wikileaks be [still] trying to protect the privacy of Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen? Despite being named and photographed (sometimes even investigated) in thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, for some strange reason various editors insist that they must never be identified (as if no one would ever think of using Google).

    The fact that both Anna and Sofia had basically both "recanted" and were speaking out against Assange's prosecution, raises questions of whether they were either pressured or paid off by pro-Assange activists, or perhaps even both.

    http://observer.com/2016/02/exclusive-new-docs-throw-doubt-on-julian-assange-rape-charges-in-st ockholm/

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

  19. icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 1:30pm

    For the lack of an informed people..

    http://famguardian.org/subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1350.htm

    "No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1821. ME 19:408

    "Freedom [is] the first-born daughter of science." --Thomas Jefferson to Francois D'Ivernois, 1795. ME 9:297

    "Light and liberty go together." --Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 1795.

    ============================================
    NOW, how many of our PAID STATE AND FED EMPLOYEES(reps and senators) Understand this...OR EVEN consider this..

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous, 23 Jun 2017 @ 2:51pm

    Re:

    You know those charges were dropped right? And the woman in question recanted years ago stating she was pressured to say that.

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous, 23 Jun 2017 @ 2:55pm

    Disingenuous Article

    This article is ridiculous. There was an agreement in place that Assange and his staff would have the editorial rights on this in order to protect themselves. The maker of the film agreed to this and then went back on her word. Keep in mind the maker, Laura Poitras, works for The Intercept, you may remember them as being the group that was recently being criticised for burning one of their sources through incompetence (and several others came forwards afterwards). They are irresponsible and underhanded, and Wikileaks and Assange damn well should be filing C&D orders. But good luck on your witch hunt and ill informed "journalism" TechDirt. Pathetic article.

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

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2017 @ 3:53pm

    Apparently wikileaks is an Australian expression that means "Assange has a small peen"

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

  23. identicon
    J.B. Nicholson, 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Disingenuous Article

    Where is there documentation of the "agreement in place that Assange and his staff would have the editorial rights on ["Risk"]"?

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

  24. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Jun 2017 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Disingenuous Article

    This article is ridiculous.

    I disagree.

    There was an agreement in place that Assange and his staff would have the editorial rights on this in order to protect themselves.

    I find it difficult to believe that a filmmaker as established as Laura Poitras would ever agree to such a silly agreement. Indeed, she claims in the article linked above that there is no such agreement. In fact, I would trust her as a documentarian a lot LESS if she had signed such an agreement. You just don't do that.

    Also, if there were such an agreement, then the cease & desist would be arguing breach of contract. It is not.

    So, I don't know where you got this info, but it does not appear to be supported by reality.

    And, even if there were such an agreement, it's silly in this context. Wikileaks' whole focus -- one which we support! -- is in releasing documents against the interests of those who had them originally. For it to go after a documentary filmmaker using questionable legal threats clearly goes against the entire ethos of Wikileaks.

    Keep in mind the maker, Laura Poitras, works for The Intercept, you may remember them as being the group that was recently being criticised for burning one of their sources through incompetence (and several others came forwards afterwards). They are irresponsible and underhanded, and Wikileaks and Assange damn well should be filing C&D orders.

    This is an interesting smear, but inaccurate. First off, Poitras herself had nothing to do with that situation. Second, the Intercept employs two of the best-known security experts at protecting confidential sources online. It is true that they fucked up bigtime with Reality Winner (though it seems clear she would have been caught through other means quickly anyway), but it's not as if they have a long history of these kinds of fuckups. Exactly the opposite. They have a long history of being a go to source for anonymous sources who they've protected successfully.

    And, again, the C&D still does not make any sense at all, given the other points raised above.

    • But good luck on your witch hunt and ill informed "journalism" TechDirt. Pathetic article.*

    Please define "witch hunt" because this is not a witch hunt. This is a response to a bullshit hypocritical attempt to be a censorious jackass.

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

  25. identicon
    Thad, 23 Jun 2017 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Re:

    Partially, yes. If somebody tells you she's unwilling to have sex without a condom, and you wait until she's asleep and then penetrate her without a condom, that's rape.

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

  26. identicon
    Thad, 23 Jun 2017 @ 7:56pm

    Re: Re:

    Not all of the charges have been dropped, and those that have been were dropped on statute of limitations grounds.

    You're also mistaken in your implication that there was only one accuser.

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

  27. identicon
    Anonymous, 24 Jun 2017 @ 3:55am

    Re: Whoops.

    "Assange should have taken more care to assert that his comments were either on or off the record."

    He got it in writing that some scenes filmed were entirely off-the-record, and could only be used if everyone in them granted permission later (which they did not). Poitras violated this written legal agreement that she signed, and the fact that he has actually not sued her yet is surprising to some of the people involved.

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

  28. identicon
    AnonCow, 24 Jun 2017 @ 6:09am

    Being around Assange is like being around the Kardashian family. Nobody ever comes away looking better for it...

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

  29. identicon
    The man in the black van with a long lens, 24 Jun 2017 @ 7:48am

    In vino veritas

    "requests to remove images of alcohol bottles in the embassy because Ecuador is a Catholic country"

    More like "requests to remove images of alcohol bottles in the embassy because we don't want people thinking Julian's a drunk"

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

  30. identicon
    THIERRY DETAILE, 25 Jun 2017 @ 12:28pm

    RISK

    You are mixing it all in this article. A documentary, based on trust and immersion, is not a reportage, or journalism. And it is based on acontract, also: the C&D is about breach in the contract, not about Assange's image in the film, by the way quite empathic about him. It is also about the updated off voice , which is clearly searving soup to political correctness. But is sell better I guess for you to blame then understand and analyse a situation.

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

  31. identicon
    Joe K, 28 Jun 2017 @ 1:30pm

    Another Statement published in Newsweek, consipicuously absent from the discussion here

    I am genuinely surprised that nobody here, in this discussion, has pointed to this quite relevant statement, published in Newsweek just last month, from Wikileaks' attorneys.

    Here is a particularly relevant excerpt, reference to which might have shed some badly needed light on the muddy exchange between Anonymous and Masnick above:

    Our first issue with Risk is that the film was edited in New York, where the raw footage can more easily be seized by the U.S. government. By moving the editing location from Berlin to the U.S., Poitras has endangered our clients and reneged on written agreements with WikiLeaks that explicitly forbid her from editing the footage in the United States.

    Is every written agreement a contract? It would surprise me if that were the case, but I honestly have no idea.

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


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