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Copyright Theft & Piracy

Hello Shooters,

This is a real world copyright theft scenario that has unfolded in recent weeks. It's quite complicated, a long read and certainly not your everyday indie filmmaker scenario, however, it sadly proves how unscrupulous some of the US based content 'hoovers' are.

As a filmmaker with a studio's worth of content (13 features since 2010) I am no stranger to Copyright takedowns and infringements. I thought the most ridiculous was the actress who ripped the climactic scene of a pending feature film from the lo-res DVD screener to use on her Instagram and showreel 8 weeks before it was released, however, that infringement pales when compared to this brazen situation of copyright theft...

Firstly, my 13th feature th'dread rattlin' (2018) has been pirated consistently since it's release last Autumn. After multiple copyright takedowns in the Autumn I ignored it on YouTube for a few months only to find it fully translated into Arabic (someone took the time to this!) with 174,000 odd views behind it before disappearing a week ago. For a sub £1k film, with 75 IMDb ratings, Worldwide exposure and an additional scathing 10 minute trolling review from a fat American you can't ask for much more in terms of outreach...

Secondly, in recent weeks Italian distributors were interested in my 4th feature, mafia crime drama 'The Devil Made Me Do It'. They still are. Even though DMMDI was made in 2012, it's not had a great deal of exposure and as a period set film (1973) it's quite timeless. Looking around the Internet to check for piracy I found it recently uploaded on YouTube through 'Booh - Horror Movies' with 22,000 views behind it and lots of positive comments.

Great, except, DMMDI isn't currently externally licenced to anyone; where did they get this from? I submitted a copyright takedown only to receive a counter claim from Amogo Networx (the YouTube content behemoth behind Booh) stating they had licenced this content from Echelon Studios in the US. I then found my 3rd feature 'Africa In Her Blood' was also on 'Booh', albeit with only 3500 odd views, also licenced from Echelon. After an initial email requesting I retract the copyright strike Amogo Networx's response stated this was not the first time they had run into strike problems with Echelon. After an email exchange I retracted the strike on proviso that Amogo remove any Nightpiece Media content immediately - which they did.

Nightpiece/me have NO existing agreements with Echelon Studios. I'd never heard of them. I'd never had any kind of agreement with this company - they simply sub-licenced my content as their own to another vendor and I have no idea who else they might have illegally sub-licenced it to.

echelonstudios.us

After digging, this scenario does have further history. In 2013 I signed a deal with 'Click Flick LLC' a Connecticut based US distributor who sub-licenced my first 5 films for 3 years. This contract expired in October 2016. It's now May 2019. We never saw any money or exposure from this endeavour but they got a harddrive full of Pro-Res masters and 5 feature films in their catalogue.

It looks likely that Echelon are an evolution of 'Click Flick', however, as a different entity the gravity of this copyright theft becomes even greater as it means Echelon have simply stolen (at least) 2 of my titles to illegally sub-licence.

Copyright theft on this brazen scale is difficult - and time consuming - to address but it happens. It's also hard to put a money factor on. We're not dealing with a Hollywood back catalogue but as intellectual property it's the same as Star Wars and infuriating when you've got genuine distribution interest on a title. With Echelon silent in response to any query (emails just bounce) this matter still isn't entirely resolved but according to their Twitter account, Echelon are currently in Cannes hawking their '20,000 titles'...



keep filming!

Al Carretta
Director, Nightpiece Media / Nightpiece Film Festival
www.nightpiecemedia.co.uk
Twitter: @alcarretta

  • It looks from your story that no one has any title to your property other than yourself. Double check the small print on any agreement that you've made in the past just to be sure that you've not accidentally allowed a loophole.

    If all is clear you ought to have no problem proving your exclusive ownership. Advise them of the facts and that you will sue them if they don't cease and desist. If they refuse sue them for extenuating consequential damages and costs. They'll settle out of court.

    1 month ago
  • That's brazen. So many shits and sharks in the water.

    Do you know anyone at Cannes this week who can find those guys and poke their eyes?

    1 month ago