A while back, I wrote a story with Reader film critic David Elliott about http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2010/oct/20/cover-dennis-hopper/">Dennis Hopper. Elliott selected nine films from the Hopper canon, I watched 'em, and then we exchanged thoughts. The only one I couldn't find on video was The Last Movie - which would have been a huge loss, because it marked the first of Hopper's great Hollywood flameouts. But just before I gave up, I found the blessed thing, in its entirety, on YouTube:
Amazing. And thank goodness! Otherwise, I would have been out of luck.
That's the prologue. On to the real story. So the other night, I was bopping around YouTube looking for recordings of Dorothy Parker reading her own poetry (You might as well live!), when I happened upon (and watched) Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, the 1994 Parker biopic starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. A guilty pleasure - I'm a sucker for the whole Algonquin Round Table mythology, people living on wits and gin, etc.
It wasn't until after I was finished that I started to think that maybe it was a guilty pleasure for other reasons as well. From the YouTube http://www.youtube.com/t/howto_copyright">Copyright Tips page:
"Copyright is a form of protection provided for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, graphic and audiovisual creations. 'Copyright' literally means the right to copy, but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work.
What is copyright infringement? Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner...
As a general matter, we at YouTube respect the rights of artists and creators, and hope you will work with us to keep our community a creative, legal and positive experience for everyone, including artists and creators."
The film was lovingly uploaded by one http://www.youtube.com/user/DragonflyNoir10">DragonflyNoir10, who is, as far as I can tell, http://twitter.com/#!/JessicaPhD08">Jessica Nicolaides, a woman who describes herself as a "liberal writer, and journalist for The Washington Post, Slate, and Bitch Magazine, Social Activist, feminist-historian, Professor, and Yale alum."
Very enlightened. And she apparently has no troubles - feminist, liberal, or otherwise - uploading this film onto YouTube for free consumption. Ditto Quiz Show, Before Sunrise, Imitation of Life, Secrets & Lies, and Sylvia.
Dr. Nicolaides writes that she "created this channel to showcase and promote feminist, and intellectual films & videos." Who could complain? Well, maybe the people involved in those films, but...
Here's the funny thing: if I saw that these films had been uploaded by MOVIEBURNER888 or some such, I would have been more hesitant to dive in. But this lady identifies herself! She's got a doctorate! She writes for the Washington Post! Surely she is on solid ethical ground here? Surely she has some kind of special understanding that allows her to distribute otherwise copyrighted works? Surely...
I dunno. What say you all?