Rear Left

Media In Action

Posted in Media & Movements, Personal/Meta by rearleft on July 23, 2010

Global Action Project (GAP) have launched Media In Action, a set of workshops designed to promote critical media literacy and production skills for young people.

Work on this curriculum was a significant part of my work at GAP, and I am very happy to see it made available for use by folks outside that organisation. Its content is US-focused, but is built on an analysis of the role of media in social power relations that could easily be adapted to a range of local/national/community contexts. Beyond its value as a tool for educators and activists who are looking to integrate media work and political education into their work with youth, this document can be seen as emblematic of an emerging current that connects the work of youth development, community media, and political organising. As an insider to the process of authoring this work I can attest that GAP is an organisation that truly walks its talk. This is not the work of an author putting forward a pedagogy abstracted from practice. It is born of years of collaboration and struggle among passionate educator/activists, developed in the crucible of many actual media production processes and grassroots political campaigns, tested and developed with scores of youths whose bullshit sensors are finely calibrated machines. Through the very process of creating this curriculum, the organisation, and the wider practice of youth media that it works within, has been affected. This work is pushing youth media beyond the inadequate paradigms of voice and representation and into the realm of demanding creating real change.

This incredible resource is available online for FREE, so go get it, use it, modify it, and send them some feedback on how it lives in your own work.


YouTube Takedown, Part III

Posted in Media & Movements, The Law is an Ass by rearleft on April 22, 2009

FYI, Pipeline is now back online, but muted. Thanks for nothing, YouTube! (backstory here and here)

I’d take it down, but I’m afraid that YouTube could later construe that as me acknowledging some wrongdoing. So there sits half of the film. The implications of the Google corporation effectively making an edit to a film produced by young people earnestly trying to better the conditions of their communities are massive.

Q: If Content ID is a powerful enough search  and destroy tool to find Pipeline’s use of copyright material, why don’t they simply mute that section of the audio track?

A: Because it would be outrageous for YouTube to make an edit on a film based on their legal interpretation of a third party’s copyright claim.

So instead they cut the entire soundtrack off, leaving Pipeline eviscerated.

With the recent reporting around YouTube’s plans to move away from user-generated content and towards big money licensing deals, I get the impression that they’d be happy to see folks like us just get frustrated and walk away. This being the last week in my job, and no-one replacing me because of budget realities effecting all non-profits next year, it’s entirely likely that GAP will just move to Vimeo or and pray that those platforms  don’t start doing something similar. I’d rather see YouTube say they’re sorry and repost the video.

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YouTube Takedown, Part II

Posted in The Law is an Ass by rearleft on April 2, 2009

Universal Music Group and YouTube continue to block the exhibition of Pipeline. In case you missed it, Part I of the story here.

Following a failed dispute through YouTube’s built-in process, I did a bit of searching around and found the requirements for a DMCA counter-takedown notice and dutifully fired off a letter to YouTube’s copyright department, hoping that they would recognize that this was a legitimate case of  fair use. They promptly acknowledged receipt of my letter, as they are required to do by the DMCA, and seemed to say in their response that the decision to put the video back up was out of their hands, but that they would forward my assertion of fair use to UMG. They even had the nerve to refer me back to square one, their own page advising how to respond to a takedown.

A few days later, this notice appeared on Pipeline‘s status page…


…which is not even correct. The video has not been muted, it’s been taken down.

I understand I’ve probably earned Global Action Project a strike in YouTube’s shitlist. Two more and they take down our channel! My organization has no budget for hiring lawyers to take on these HUGE corporations, so I’m in the process of looking for someone to give us some proper legal advice and potentially write a heavier letter than my dinky form letter. I’ve written to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but I’m sure that they’re absolutely inundated with complaints like this one following YouTube’s recent takedown rampage. I’m hoping that this case stands out because of its implications for the entire youth media field.

If these corporations cannot be held accountable, the repercussions for youth producers and their educators, mentors, or facilitators  are remarkable. The laws might say very noble things about the safeguarding of public interest, but if it takes a team of lawyers and many hours of my work to deal with a benign case like this, then the protections in law are not worth a damn.

One of my tasks before I leave this job is to help develop internal guidelines for the handling of copyright material that is consistent with fair use provisions of the law. Unless I see some remedy to the situation in the next few weeks, I will be forced to advise that neither US copyright law, nor the guidelines developed by the Center for Social Media are what we should look to as our guide (unless the producers and their educators are prepared to go into battle over each instance). I’m not about to tell teenagers that the law will protect them when I am not at all convinced that it will. Similarly, the prospect of getting an exemption from DMCA for our organization, or even for the whole field would be unsatisfactory because I see no point in training young people in a method that is not applicable once they transition out of the educational setting.

And yes, we could just pack up and leave YouTube for another platform, but right now that’s where the audience is and there’s no guarantee that another platform won’t turn around and pull the same moves. For now I’ll contiue fighting this fight, because I’d love to set a precedent to save other people from having to deal with this nonsense. I’m afraid that what is really needed here is a humiliating loss for the corporations in the courts, preferably with a large sum of money attached to make them actually notice, and to offset some of the harm that this has done.

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YouTube Takedown

Posted in The Law is an Ass by rearleft on February 23, 2009


Returned to work from a month’s paternity leave to find that one of the videos from a few years back has been taken down (for the second time) by YouTube. The video, Pipeline, contains a Dizzy Gillespie track that Universal Music Group holds the copyright on. Apparently YouTube checks the waveform of uploaded videos against a database, and takes stuff down on behalf of the copyright holders. I disputed the original takedown on the grounds that the use of copyright material in the video is allowed as fair use, and YouTube made it “live” again, pending contact with UMG.

Now it’s been taken down again. I guess YouTube have determined, or UMG are asserting, that what this group of teenagers did is not fair use. It doesn’t even show up on youtomb, the awesome new takedown Valhalla from MIT Free Culture.

The Center for Social Media at American University in DC recently published widely accepted basic guidelines for both documentary filmmakers and media literacy educators for the use of copyright materials under fair use provisions that already exist in the law. Using these guidelines, I’m confident that Pipeline‘s use of the Dizzy Gillespie track is fine for a couple of reasons.

One of the four main classes of material that is generally covered by fair use is the use of copyrighted material in a historical sequence, which I think is an excellent description of this case.

Also keep in mind that this video was produced by a group of 15-18 year olds in an educational setting, so the provisions for distribution of works that are media literacy exercises should also apply.

Copyright material is in the first minute

(NB: much black at beginning. video begins at 25 seconds.)

If I get no joy after a letter to YouTube, we’re going to be looking for legal advice. I’m all sorts of riled up about this one! It’s just plain old mean!

Shame, YouTube.


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Long Way Home

Posted in Personal/Meta, War & Culture by rearleft on February 11, 2009

I’m in my last few days of a month’s paternity leave, and starting to try to reactivate those parts of my brain that need to be working on Monday. Finishing the book of curriculum is top priority. Also must make sure that all of the videos whose production I’ve facilitated over these past few years are ready for distribution on DVD and web, and are properly archived.

Below is an excerpt of the Urban Voices crew’s Long Way Home, a short film which contains this animation and street interviews with antiwar demonstrators at protests on Tax Day and on the day the 4000th US soldier died in Iraq. UV last year was made up of a core of about 8 youth, 15-19, from all over NYC who came together twice a week to analyze and create (mostly) video media. Special shouts to Justin Simon, who did the bulk of the art and the voices in this scene, and Fernando Martinez, who wrote and recorded the soundtrack for the whole film (and then some) in a couple of hours.

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