Test Suite of Fair Use Vids
The Test Suite below is offered in support of the EFF's proposed renewal of the DMCA exemption for noncommercial video makers, such as vidders. Please note that these vids have been compressed for streaming for the benefit of casual vidwatchers; these vids were made to be shown on the big screen and/or for download by their audience.
4 June 2012. Francesca Coppa, Rebecca Tushnet, and Tisha Turk testify in hearings at the Library of Congress; Turk presents the exhibits housed in our Image Gallery.
2 March 2012. Rachael Vaughn and Rebecca Tushnet submit a Reply Comment on behalf of the OTW (PDF). The EFF also submitted their own Reply Comment (PDF) in support of various exemptions, including the exemption for Noncommercial Remixers.
1 December 2011. Rebecca Tushnet, Rachael Vaughn, and Francesca Coppa worked with the EFF to submit a proposal to renew and expand the DMCA exemption for Noncommercial Remixers (PDF).
26 July 2010. The U.S. Library of Congress released a decision in favor of the DMCA exemptions. The OTW issued a press release in response to the ruling.
2 December 2008. The Organization for Transformative Works submitted a reply comment in support of the EFF's proposal for a DMCA exemption to allow the extraction of clips from a DVD for inclusion in noncommercial remix videos, such as fanvids, that are found to be fair use (PDF, or view as HTML). The Comment of the Electronic Frontier Foundation can also be downloaded or viewed as HTML.
For more about our ongoing DMCA advocacy, please see our legal advocacy page.
The OTW believes that noncommercial works that make creative use of existing copyrighted material, such as fanvids, are transformative, and that transformative works are legitimate under U.S. copyright law.
Vidders Require High Quality Source Footage In Order To Transform The Text.
Vidders typically manipulate video footage in a number of ways: speeding it up, slowing it down, changing color, cropping and zooming, applying an array of effects, changing the focus of attention. They consequently seek the highest quality footage available, knowing that these transformations will exact a visual cost; if you start with poor footage, the footage may end up unwatchable.
Below find a two minute, split-screen video made by vidder and Vidding Committee member Tisha Turk; the left half was ripped, the right half was captured. This footage was manipulated in only one simple way — it was slowed down, a common technique any vidder might use — and the pixellation and poor quality of the captured footage is immediately evident. It is unlikely the captured footage would be watchable once additional effects were applied to it; as vidders like to say, "Garbage in, Garbage Out."
Vidding is a Legitimate Artistic and Culturally Valuable Pursuit that Represents an Established and Growing Community.
Women's Work, by Sisabet and Luminosity
Vids remix the source material in such a way as to provide a new narrative, usually commenting on or critiquing that source. The much-discussed vid "Women's Work," by Sisabet and Luminosity, is based on Supernatural, a television series about two ghost-hunting brothers. However, the vid itself contains barely even a glimpse of the protagonists; instead, it cuts together images of women from countless episodes of the show, women who are shown only as eroticized, suffering, or demonized. One commentator described it as "a doctoral thesis in the misogyny of basic, unexamined story structures… the vid explicitly and viscerally demonstrates how so many of the stories we know and re-tell depend on the suffering of women." "Women's Work" was featured in New York Magazine, and Luminosity's vid, "Vogue," was cited as "the best fan video of the year" in 2007.
The Price, by Things With Wings
"The Price" is a vid about "manpain" — a word coined by fans to describe the depiction of "excessive, self-centered male angst." Manpain requires the audience to identify with the overblown suffering of a male protagonist rather than the actual victims of pain or violence; in these sorts of stories, the victims — typically women — are framed as narratively unimportant, or as Things With Wings puts it, "manpain is all about the camera — when the bad thing happens, who gets an emotional closeup?" Things With Wings further explains that she "needed to express the frustration I feel both with the ridiculous/terrible nature of these tired tropes AND with the entirely predictable (and often problematic) large-scale fannish reactions to those tropes…" The vid is both a critique of the mass media's use of manpain and also a critique of the fan community's embrace of these male characters and their suffering.
Vidding Promotes Both Technical Ability and Creativity.
This Is How It Works, by Lim
"This is How it Works" is composed nearly frame-by-frame from source footage, taken from the television series Stargate Atlantis, not only re-cut but reworked visually using image editing software. An ongoing animation of numbers is generated by the rhythm of the background music; this is part of the vid’s message about the dual nature of character Rodney McKay, a scientist who wanted to be a musician. After sharing the vid, Lim wrote up extensive notes on her process, detailing step by step how she created the effects. "This is How it Works" displays not only technical skill but also artistic sensibility. One of Lim's other vids, "Us," is currently in an exhibition, Mediated, at the California Museum of Photography.
Piece of Me, by Obsessive24
"Piece of Me" deliberately and artistically combines glossy DVD footage from Britney Spears' videos and other, grittier images of the singer (tabloid photography, deliberately grainy YouTube video) to draw a contrast between the singer's projected self-image and the more pathetic narrative of exploitation, commodification, and breakdown revealed by the tabloids. The song "Piece of Me," which is Spears' own, is meant to be read as a challenge to a fight: "You want a piece of me?" But Obsessive24 reveals the repressed meaning of the words, which imply the violence of being ripped apart. The result is an almost classically tragic narrative wherein Spears is picked apart by vultures: her family, Hollywood, the media, and us, the consuming spectatorial audience.
Vids Are Forms of Legitimate and Timely Cultural Criticism.
Handlebars, by Seah and Margie
Seah and Margie's "Handlebars" is an examination of the character of the Doctor in Doctor Who, as well as a more general comment on the nature of power and responsibility. The vid begins with images that illustrate the Doctor's whimsical nature, and progresses through the more dangerous aspects of his adventures as well as his smaller exercises of power, finally ending with images of the violence and destruction at his hands (in the name of the greater good). The Doctor is the hero of his eponymous television show; the vid works as a powerful criticism of the show’s moral blind spots by recontextualizing events viewers have already seen. The vid, in which the Doctor's acts are condensed to the most relevant and meaningful images, viscerally conveys its critique of the character, especially in the context of the matching song lyrics: "My cause is noble / my power is pure… And I can do anything with no permission… I can end the planet in a holocaust."
Buffy Vs. Edward, by Jonathan McIntosh
In Jonathan McIntosh's political remix video "Buffy Vs. Edward," the stalking male vampire from the Twilight franchise meets feminist icon Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This 2009 remix got more than 4 million views and has been translated into over 30 languages. It was also covered in such major media outlets as NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and Salon.com. McIntosh used many different kinds of footage to make this remix, including not only standard DVD rips but also high-definition footage big enough to allow him to cut other characters out of the frame (the better to construct a new narrative reality). McIntosh has since gone on to create "Right Wing Radio Duck", a massively viral hit in which Donald Duck listens to radio host Glenn Beck and joins the Tea Party with pitiable results, and "Too Many Dicks on The Daily Show," which critiques Jon Stewart's male-dominated writer's room.
It Depends On What You Pay, by Gianduja Kiss
Gianduja Kiss's 2009 vid, "It Depends on What You Pay," critiques the recent television show Dollhouse, a science fiction show in which a corporation erases the memories of individuals ("Dolls"), replaces them with new custom personalities, and rents them out for personal, often sexual, use. While this was meant to be a discomfiting and dystopic premise, many female fans felt that the show seemed not to fully understand that it was about rape — that memory erasing represents a fundamental lack of consent — and that rape might not be an enjoyable topic for many female fans. By remixing the show to a cheerful song about rape cut from The Fantasticks (itself a marker of something once considered entertaining and now considered offensive), Gianduja Kiss weighed in on an argument that ranged across both the blogosphere and the mainstream media, making her points efficiently through multimedia; one feminist blogger noted after watching the vid, "The rape scenes on Dollhouse are rarely shot as rapes. They're party scenes, sport fucks, 'lurve-making'… The fanvid has to impose the horror of what's going on… because outside of the context of the show's premise, there is nothing in most of these shots to encourage the viewer to read the scene in front of them as anything other than what it seems." In order to weigh in on this conversation as it was happening, Gianduja Kiss had to make the vid with Amazon Unbox footage; DVD footage was not at that time available.
Vids Propose Alternate Readings and Realities.
Closer, by T. Jonesy and Killa
"Closer" is a Star Trek vid that eroticizes violent encounters between the characters Kirk and Spock. As Henry Jenkins pointed out in his discussion of "Closer" in How to Watch a Fan-Vid: "[s]uch works certainly interpret the original series but not in a sense that would be recognized by most Literature teachers. They are not simply trying to recover what the original producers meant. They are trying to entertain hypotheticals, address what if questions, and propose alternate realities." Indeed, the opening title to "Closer" asks "What if they hadn't made it to Vulcan in time?" before creating a fictionalized scenario in response to this question. It is a disquieting vid for many fans, but it is meant to be. It draws parallels between sexual violence and the violation of mind-reading and also mirrors some of the more controversial themes in the fiction that fans have written about the Star Trek episode "Amok Time" for decades.
"White" and Nerdy, by talitha78
Vidder talitha78's "'White' and Nerdy" responds to a series of online debates over race in popular culture by creating a vid focused on Gus, an African-American character on the TV show Psych. As talitha78 explains, "putting this together became a way of working through my issues with regard to [fan debates over race known as] RaceFail 2009. Like Gus, I am a nerd of color in a society where nerdiness is frequently coded as 'white.' With this vid, I want to subvert that stereotype…" "'White' and Nerdy" thus makes racial invisibility visible, showing how black nerds are overlooked because they don't fit stereotypes about blackness or nerd/geek culture.
The Test, by here's luck
"The Test" combines clips from the 2009 movie reboot of Star Trek with clips from the original Star Trek TV series to visualize a story already well established in fan fiction at the time: in the reboot movie, when Spock Prime transferred memories of the destruction of Romulus to Kirk, he also inadvertently transferred memories of events from the original series, including memories of sexual attraction or involvement between himself and the Kirk from his timeline. Vidder here's luck uses special effects to signal the difference between current events and memories, to suggest that the images from the original series are coming through fuzzily and possibly unintentionally, to establish romantic and sexual overtones in those images, and to construct a narrative in which Spock Prime's memories continue to bleed into Kirk's consciousness throughout the rest of the 2009 movie. (Read additional commentary about the vid.)