Extra! Your Political Speech is now a “Viacom Property”

Earlier this week, fan artist Glockgal discovered that all but one of the designs at her Zazzle store had been removed “because they “contained content in violation of Viacom’s intellectual property rights.” But the shirts contained not only original graphic designs, but political speech, protesting the casting of Asian or Inuit characters in the film of Avatar: The Last Airbender by white actors.

Apparently, you need permission from Viacom to say: “Aang can stay Asian and still save the world” or “The Last Airbender: Putting the Cauc back in Asian” or “The Last Airbender: Brown/Asian/Colored Actors NEED NOT APPLY”. These design were entirely textual, and obviously political: Glockgal called her store Racebending.com and contextualized its products as a form of political activism: “Stop Hollywood White-Washing of the upcoming movie The Last Airbender!” Glockgal is now selling some of the designs with “CENSORED BY VIACOM” plastered across them–but since when does Viacom own political speech about its products?

Sometimes People See Sense…

…The Twitter accounts of fans roleplaying Mad Men characters have been restored, after being briefly taken down for supposed copyright infringment. To quote this excellent summary of this issue from The Guardian, “the accounts returned after the show’s marketing department had stepped in to persuade AMC that, whatever the legal standing, it was insane to stop this outpouring of (completely free, you fools) fan-promotion.”

…We’ve also heard that many vidders have had positive experiences using YouTube’s “dispute” process; that is, so far when vidders have pointed to the creative and transformational nature of their vids, the vids have been restored. We are fans of YouTube’s dispute process and we hope that they expand it, thus protecting transformative works from clumsy algorithms that can’t detect fair uses.

Not everyone’s been so lucky, though. The EFF has been tracking the January takedowns, and they’re calling for YouTube to “not remove videos unless there is a match between the video and audio tracks of a submitted fingerprint.” This would stop the wrongful takedowns of transformative works like vidding, and would also stop a number of other ridiculous deletions. The EFF argues that “adding a soundtrack to your home skateboarding movie is a fair use,” and they’re looking to help people whose work was taken down unfairly.