Copyright dispute fought and lost

Copyright dispute fought and lost

This past summer I had the pleasure of shooting a Vegas wedding video done up music video style. The clients were good friends of ours and had chosen to remake a wedding video that they’d fallen in love with set to Black Eyed Peas ‘The Time – Dirty Bit’. Normally I’d choose to do something completely original as its hard to top a previously made video but I accepted the job knowing I’d find a way to make it their own.

I set out to give it an original spin by playing up on the bride’s Indian heritage and I remixed the Dirty Bit track adding a swath of Indian instruments and drums, playing the sitar myself and mixing in wonderful tabla tracks. The end product was amazing. We shot the video in both a traditional Indian and Western wedding styles and it was a multicultural success.

Within days of posting on Youtube, I was hit with the expected Copyright Violation from Universal Music Group claiming infringement. I filed the dispute and wrote the following:

I believe that our claim for use of this title in our video is fair use for the following reasons:

  1. 1. Our wedding video is not commercial in any way. This is a simple music video of a wedding and the view count is expected to be well below 5000 views in its lifetime.
  2. The use of this song is clearly transformative as it has been compiled as a remix of the original with new material consisting of Indian sitar and tablas reflecting the Indian heritage of the bride making this a highly celebratory tribute to the original music as a joyful bringing together of eastern and western cultures. There is a strong development of the original into a new ‘multicultural mix’ of the piece. The addition of a clearly multicultural wedding video gives the musical piece a tremendous new vector.
  3. We believe that our use of this piece, which debuted over 4 years ago will not adversely affect its sales but in fact bring more attention to the original artist by promoting their music in new ways. The credit is clearly attributed to the original artists and no intention has been made otherwise.

Almost 30 days passed and I was beginning to think my argument had softened some hearts at UMG and they’d let my not for profit video play without a problem. But no, on the last day they had to reject my free use argument and Youtube took the video down and slapped me with a 6 month restriction of use penalty substantially reducing my well earned video publishing abilities.

Lesson learned. If you don’t have permission from the artist or managing rights company be prepared to receive no love for your project, no matter how not for profit it may be.

PS – I had attempted the same process as above and won the right to use The Beatles song BECAUSE (a capella version) for a wedding video earlier in the year. I always liked the Beatles and have never given any attention to the Black Eyed Peas whatsoever. My loyalties are well founded indeed.

How We Made a Music Video with a $150 Camera

How We Made a Music Video with a $150 Camera

We made a music video to cultureDef’s song Broken with the Kodak Z3X Playsport camera ($150). The video we made looks as good as many music videos out there shot with cameras costing twenty times a much, or more. With a team of very creative and talented people we wrote a script, found the locations, shot some great performances and edited the whole thing… for under $500. So, if you’re a band or a performer in any field, and you want to make a great video without spending a lot of cash, then read on and see how we were able to make it happen.

When I first picked up the Playsport I was thinking it would be a great ‘toy’ to carry around and capture whatever fun or strange thing I would come across. I like to make experimental videos to mess around with and put to music, so I was looking forward to trying it out in all kinds of situations. I was excited by the fact that something as small as my cellphone could shoot at 1080p HD, so I planned to attach it to the bumpers of cars, or at the end of a rope I’d swing wildly, you know, that kind of thing. I was piqued by the fact that it could shoot underwater and also by that it could capture at 720p 60fps (frames per second) for some cool slo-mo. After a weekend of random video capture, I uploaded the footage onto my PC and was really surprised by the quality shots the camera could capture. The HD was sharp and colorful, low-light looked good and bright light looked amazing. The gears in my head started turning…

I brought the camera with me to my band’s rehearsals and gigs to document our performances and each time I looked at the footage I was totally impressed by how well the camera held up. I’d strap it to my guitar headstock, or Velcro it to my bassist’s shoulder and got the coolest shots from angles I’d never seen done before. Then it dawned on me… we could use the Playsport to make a full production music video. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to show people how it’s possible to make a high-style music video on a $150 camera?

To get the ball rolling, I propositioned Kodak by email describing our idea and I received an enthusiastic reply. They sent us some cameras and basically said, “Show us what you can do”. On top of the music video, Kodak requested us to make a behind the scenes video to document our process. (See the Making of Broken).

With Kodak’s support behind me, the team came together quickly. I contacted the 2 video directors I know, Rory Blanchard and Silvia Albertini, and told them the idea and they immediately recognized the opportunity. With Rory taking the job of directing the music video and Silvia the documentary, we started writing scripts and assembling our crew. Casey Bramall came on as our D.O.P. He took the Playsport through a series of tests and came back with all good news: the camera would be able to deliver in a wide variety of settings. Knowing that, our script would include slow motion scenes, some underwater scenes, lots of low light atmospheric scenes… we basically threw in everything that would challenge any camera. We brought in Francis Slzachcic as our VFX person to create some CGI effects, as our script called for a 180 degree bullet time shot that we would use to have the lead singer break into a thousand pieces at the end of the song. A song called ‘Broken’, after all.

Our music video crew consisted of the director, director of photography, assistant director, makeup artist, grips and lighting techs, and the band cultureDef. The crew for the documentary consisted of the director and a cameraman. Our first day of the shoot was in an old Victorian mansion built in 1880, and had survived all those years without many upgrades. The power was barely adequate and the lighting wasn’t much better. The scenes we shot that day consisted of indoor shots of the Zufo (lead singer) at the piano, Zufo plunging his head underwater in a large bathtub, fight scenes between Zufo and Justine (love interest),  and shots of the band members playing outside the house, in the rain, at night. We mounted the Playsport on all kinds of tripods and steadycams and it held up well in all conditions. Casey (D.O.P.) had brought a truckload of lights but ended up using less than half because of how well the camera could work in low-light conditions. The documentary team made sure everything was captured in action, as it happened.

Our next location was at a nightclub to film the band playing to a live audience. Again, the shooting conditions were less than perfect. The lighting was typical for a club, very bright in spots and very dim everywhere else. We used a hazer to give the rook the right atmosphere with a layer of smoke in the air.  We shot many scenes in the 720p 60fps mode with the band playing the song at double speed so that in post we could slow it back down to normal speed to achieve the slow motion shots we were after, and in these challenging conditions the camera performed superbly.

Our final scene took place in Justine’s pool. We went late at night with only Zufo, Justine, and Rory so that we wouldn’t alarm anyone with a large crew (sparing us the need to ask for permission). Zufo and Justine jumped into the pool fully clothed while Rory leaned over the edge and held the camera underwater to get the shot. The result was the beautiful dreamlike scenes in the video.

We are very happy with what we got in the end. Both videos, Broken and the Making of Broken show how a team of passionate and dedicated people can make a compelling music video with a good song, creative film making, and a $150 video camera. We are very pleased with what we got out of the Kodak Z3X Playsport camera, and we hope you will be too.


Vocals/Guitar: Zufo
Bass: Shafer Carson
Drums: Mike Horntvedt

Broken – the music video

Director: Rory Blanchard (link)
Director of Photography: Casey Bramall (link)
Video FX: Francis Slzachcic (link)
Script: Zufo & Rory Blanchard
Female Lead: Justine Warrington (link)
Assistant Director: Shahnee Zaver
Makeup Artist: Tiffany Sigurnjak
Tech: Kevin Rigney
Tech: Devlin (?)
Producer: Zufo (link)

The Making of Broken
Director: Silvia Albertini (link)
Script: Silvia Albertini
Camera: Francis Slzachcic
Producer: Zufo

Written by Zufo
published by Write Songs –Will Travel. © copyright 2005-2015