EXCLUSIVE, updated with new details, 11:42 AM: Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ controversial documentary Planet of the Humans has been removed from YouTube, where it was streaming for free — a move the pair calls a “blatant act of censorship.”
EP Moore and writer-producer Gibbs told Deadline they discovered today that their film, which has racked more than 8.3 million views in a month-plus, was taken down from YouTube after a copyright claim was lodged against the documentary over four seconds of footage it contains.
“This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans,” Gibbs said in a statement provided exclusively to Deadline (read it below). “It is a misuse of copyright law to shut down a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called ‘green capitalists.’ There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film.”
The four-second clip subject to the copyright right claim comes 37 minutes into the documentary, in a sequence titled “How Solar Panels & Wind Turbines Are Made.” The footage shows a mining operation for rare earth metals, which are used in wind turbine manufacture. Gibbs says he incorporated the footage under “fair use,” an exception to copyright law that allows news reporters, producers and documentary filmmakers limited access to copyrighted material to illustrate points.
British environmental photographer Toby Smith tweeted over the weekend that he shot the footage in question for an unrelated documentary project. In a since-deleted post to his verified Twitter account, Smith dismissed Planet of the Humans as “bull-shit” and suggested it was filled with “endless” copyright infringements in addition to his own material. He told a British publication it was he who filed the copyright infringement claim with YouTube.
YouTube automatically notifies content creators of any copyright infringement accusation lodged against them and provides a dispute adjudication process. A representative for Moore and Gibbs confirmed the filmmakers formally contacted YouTube to deny the infringement claim, citing fair use.
“We are working with YouTube to resolve this issue,” Gibbs wrote in his statement, “and have the film back up as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, Moore and Gibbs have made their documentary available for free on the Vimeo streaming platform.
Moore posted Planet of the Humans to YouTube on the eve of Earth Day last month. The film argues that purported “green solutions” to fossil fuels offer a false promise of saving the planet from environmental collapse caused by global warming, over-consumption and resource depletion. Gibbs insists the environmental movement must address population growth and mass consumption if it is to have any real impact on what he sees as an apocalyptic scenario. The film also raises questions about possible financial conflicts of interest among leading environmentalists who back green energy, including former Vice President Al Gore and Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
The documentary, especially coming from the unassailably left-wing Moore and Gibbs and not righ-twing climate-change deniers, was bound to provoke a strong reaction. Among the environmental champions leading the charge against Planet of the Humans has been Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland. Fox led an earlier campaign on Twitter to get the docu “retracted by its creators and distributors,” calling the film “shockingly misleading and absurd.”
The effort by Fox triggered its own backlash, with the writers organization PEN America labeling it attempted censorship. In his statement to Deadline, Gibbs once against decried any attempt to keep the film from reaching the public.
Here is Gibbs’ full statement to Deadline:
This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shutdown a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert the right to free speech.
Opponents of Planet of the Humans, who do not like its critique of the failures of the environmental movement, have worked for weeks to have the film taken down and to block us from appearing on TV and on livestream. Their efforts to subvert free speech have failed, with nearly eight and a half million people already viewing the film on YouTube. These Trumpian tactics are shameful, and their aim to stifle free speech and prevent people from grappling with the uncomfortable truths exposed in this film is deeply disturbing.
PEN America, which was founded in 1922 and fights for the free speech of artists in the U.S. and around the world, came out strongly and denounced the initial attempt to censor this film, and we hope all champions of free expression condemn this act of censorship. We are working with YouTube to resolve this issue and have the film back up as soon as possible.”