from the everyone's-doing-it! dept
With the constant drumbeat of the evils of copyright infringement and internet piracy being issued from those leading the movie industry, you might have been under the impression everyone within the industry held the same beliefs. Between the cries of lost profits, the constant calls for the censorship of websites, and even the requests to roll back safe harbor protections that have helped foster what must be considered a far larger audience for the industry, perhaps you pictured the rank and file of the movie business as white-clad monk-like figures that served as paragons of copyright virtue.
Yet that’s often not the case. While many artists, actors, and directors do indeed toe the industry line on matters of piracy, you will occasionally get glimpses of what has to be considered normalcy in how people engage with copyright issues among members of the industry. We should keep in mind our argument that essentially everyone will infringe on intellectual property at some point, often times without knowing or intending it, because engaging in said behavior just seems to make sense. During a radio interview Taiki Waititi did to promote Thor: Ragnarok, which he directed, he admitted to doing it himself.
Speaking with broadcaster Tom Power, Waititi revealed that when putting together his promotional showreel for Thor: Ragnarok, he obtained its source material from illegal sources. Explaining the process used to acquire clips to create his ‘sizzle reel’ (a short video highlighting a director’s vision and tone for a proposed movie), Waititi revealed his less-than-official approach.
“I cut together little clips and shots – I basically illegally torrented and, erm, you know, ripped clips from the Internet,” Waititi said.
“Of a bunch of different things?” Power asked.
“I don’t mind saying that…erm…on the radio,” Waititi added, unconvincingly.
Almost immediately afterwards, Waititi seemed to realize that he was admitting to copyright infringement on a recording and asked for that part of the interview to be cut out, which of course it wasn’t.
So what are sizzle reels? When a director pitches a movie to a studio, they will often include a short reel of movie clips that demonstrate what they feel to be their overall vision as a director and tie that in with whatever film is being pitched. Producing a sizzle reel, particularly on short notice, can be a harrowing experience. You have to get the movies from which to pull clips. You have to make sure those movies are in a format easily editable to make the clips. You have to then splice them together in a coherent way to demonstrate your vision and themes for the movie pitch.
Of course, the internet provides an easier avenue for much of that effort, which is why a director like Waititi would naturally go to this massive resource to build his sizzle reel. It’s as innocuous a thing as could be. Also, it’s definitely copyright infringement.
Now, Waititi almost certainly will face zero repercussions for this confession, but only because he’s a protected industry insider with great movies on his resume. But if this were an up and coming director? Or just some kids having fun? It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up images of threat letters demanding settlements, or even protracted legal proceedings over this kind of “piracy.”
Whatever this discrepancy says about how copyright is selectively enforced, it should be obvious that nothing in this is promoting the progress of the arts.