A Power/Rangers fan video has been yanked from YouTube and Vimeo in light of copyright-infringement concerns, but it can still be seen on Facebook. “Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for hosting Power/Rangers and taking a stand,” the film’s producer, Adi Shankar said in a note to the Facebook CEO.
The 14-minute homage to the popular kids’ TV show, which received more than 12 million views in the two days before it was pulled from YouTube on Thursday, has had over 131,000 views on Shankar’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theadishankarbrand.
YouTube pulled the video after Haim Saban, who owns the Power Rangers franchise, alerted the site to the alleged copyright infringement. “When a copyright holder notifies us of a video that infringes their copyright,” a YouTube spokesperson told Deadline, “we remove content promptly in accordance with the law.” Vimeo, the file hosting site for filmmakers, pulled the video for the same reason.
Shankar told Deadline that he is “deeply disappointed” that Saban Brands decided to “attack” the film. “To all the viewers that enjoyed this film, I consider this an outright infringement on freedom of expression and individualism,” she told Deadline. “I set out to make this film because I am a childhood fan of the Power Rangers. As children our retinas are burned with iconic images and as we grow older these images come to represent crucial moments within the trajectories of our own lives.
“This film is a homage to the original creators of the Power Rangers, and a parody of a television series we all grew up loving,” he continued. “Films like my Power/Rangers ‘Bootleg’ are vital expressions of creativity in our troubled world. If we suppress this creativity and become passive participants in the consumption of the culture we live in, we implicitly allow a dangerous precedent to be set for the future of the Internet.”
Fan videos pose tricky legal and public relations problems for copyright holders. A top entertainment industry copyright attorney told Deadline that “there is a gray area of ‘fan fiction’ where tributes are made by fans and the studios don’t want to piss their base by going after these people legally. The guy may have a fair-use defense, or a de-minimis-use defense. It’s not a slam dunk by either side. Trademark law applies as well.”
In certain cases, the so called “fair use doctrine” allows a limited amount of free use of copyrighted material. According to the US Copyright Office, “The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined.” One test is whether or not the “fair use” of copyrighted material is designed to make a profit.The film’s director, Joseph Kahn, insists that it was strictly a not-for-profit project. “Every image in Power/Rangers is original footage,” he tweeted. “Nothing was pre-existing. There is no copyrighted footage in the short. I am not making any money on it and I refuse to accept any from anyone. It was not even Kickstarted, I paid for it myself. This was made to be given away for free. It is just as if I drew a pic of Power Rangers on a napkin and I gave it to my friend. Is it illegal to give a pic I drew of a character on a napkin to someone for free? No.” Then, in a tweet to Saban, he added: “The world is watching your actions right now.”