“Sorry About That”

I watch a lot of fanvids. Videos Lawrence Lessig would categorize as “remixes” – similar to AMVs (76). In preparation for this response post, then, I went to my favorites playlist on YouTube to find a couple videos to draw our attention to. Going through my list, every 10 or so videos (…let that say what it will about how many videos I’ve favorited) there would be a “Deleted video.” I’ve made a screenshot collage of the main reason offered:


Copyright claims and infringement.

The two claims on the right were (from top to bottom) a section of the BBC Proms and an artist’s work named Kim Beom where the art was him screaming as he painted with yellow paint. The reason I watched both of these pieces on YouTube was that it was the only site where I could access them – access being a key issue Lessig drives home in his work (46).

The other two videos, however, were fanvids. I couldn’t reliably say what the work on top was, but I do remember the bottom. To summarize it briefly, a youtube user set audio from the film Step Brothers to visuals from Thor – turning the destructive and violent relationship between Thor and Loki into something funny, remixing the two works. It did not replace either film, but brought forward an amusing connection between the work. As Lessig writes of similar videos, “Their meaning comes not from the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is expressible only if it is the original that is used” (74). Only actual audio and visuals from both films would create the effect; furthermore, it is an original effect coming from recycled materials.

I thought it would be fun for this post to look at two fanvids about the current television show Hannibal. The first is just two minutes long (and of a serious tone) and I’ve edited the second down to approximately thirty seconds (and it is ridiculous).  I imagine that there those who don’t watch the show will view the videos differently from those that do, as a common, shared knowledge is part of the game with these videos, but for background’s sake, Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) is the good guy and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is not so good – as I’m sure you know.

And, as I talked about netiquette last week, a content warning here – Hannibal is a very graphically violent show (really gruesome murders and whatnot & all the food is people), so consider yourself warned.

Hannibal – Disney Crack Edition

I thought I would add these videos to our discussion because they serve as illustrations of youtuber’s editing and remixing capabilities. The first, a (I think) beautifully edited and mixed video, draws on the initial statement from FBI profiler Will Graham, “Don’t psychoanalyze me; you wouldn’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed,” and basically does just that. It explores the darker elements of this character’s mind as he recreates/lives other murderers’ crimes. The song brings forward the seemingly futile effort Will makes to bury this darkness in his desire to save lives and build relationships and friendships (but he is relying on Hannibal as a friend – not the best idea).

The section from the second video flips this serious investigation of Will and the dynamic between Will and Hannibal on its head. Its darkly funny in putting together Hannibal with The Little Mermaid and it relies on viewer knowledge of both to make its point. The production value is lower and the purpose is humor. At the same time, it does have a point, which is that in the show Hannibal does put forth this sincere attitude that he is helping, in his unique way, Will Graham to become his true self. Unfortunately for Will Graham, Hannibal’s version of him is a brutal and vicious killer…

I have absolutely seen videos like these two pulled down after copyright claims have been made. So, while I think that there are certainly limitations to Lessig’s work (for example, his alarmed rhetoric around the moral ramifications of branding a generation as pirates), I think that a focused look at some of the work that people do on YouTube supports his more basic point about copyright in the digital age.


8 thoughts on ““Sorry About That””

  1. Caitlin– Those 2 1/2 minutes are going to give me nightmares.

    More to your point, these YouTube remixes seem like really murky waters to me. On the one hand, they are original creations/amalgamations that have their own artistic value. But on the other hand, I can’t help but think there is the potential for the creator to profit from the work of (uncompensated others).

    Lessig draws a distinction between commercial work and “kids drawing Mickey Mouse on a wall,” but I think these youtube videos fall somewhere between those two things. While I think it would be ridiculous for Disney to go after a bunch of 2nd graders, the first video that you posted has over 76k views—that’s considerably more than a 2nd grader’s audience. The sheer number of people the artists are reaching provides them with an opportunity to direct viewers to their own sites or to simply become “youtube famous.”

    I guess I’m just conflicted because I can completely understand why those artists (or, more likely, those production companies) would want that material removed, but I also enjoy watching the semi-original creations of others (at least I do when they don’t involve so much blood).

    1. I see your point here. I think I would have two responses. The first is that I tend not to be super sympathetic if NBC were to come after these videos and claim to be an uncompensated victim. The show generates a lot of viewers, who nearly rabidly (in the case of this fandom) promote the show through watching and merchandise purchasing, and also promote the show through such fanvids. I don’t think NBC has a case to say that they are somehow losing money because of these creations…or that the user makes money off of the original creator’s work.

      You’re absolutely right that this particular video has a lot of views. I didn’t pay attention to that when choosing it, but I can say that it is not common. Normally, a fanvid will have somewhere between 3 and 5k views. This particular vidder has been creating fanvids for I think maybe 8 years now. And across multiple fandoms – so she has built up a reputation, but not in the youtube famous range. My second response comes into play here. I don’t know that it’s a problem if a user builds a reputation in this near-apprenticeship mode (to use Lessig’s terms) and directs others toward their original creations. I feel like that is a common process across mediums. We wouldn’t question, for example, an article author who critiques, let’s say Lessig, and who has under her name a link to her own blog/papers/book or whatnot. That doesn’t mean she diminishes the original work just because she uses one type of work that she does to promote another.

      At least for Hannibal, the show’s exec. producer Bryan Fuller actively encourages fan creations. NBC Hannibal’s official tumblr prior to this season even went so far as to ask users to create fanart that would be used as official promotional material. What I tend to be more worried about is production companies swallowing user-created content, encouraging but exploiting remixers while maintaining a friendly “we love how you remix – look at how advanced we are” attitude. The more I write about it, the more complicated the questions become!

  2. To begin with, the first Hannibal video was absolutely beautifully done–thanks for sharing!–and something I could have easily believed was an official promo for Season 2. It certainly muddies the either-or “amateur”/”professional” (and RW/RO) dichotomy (28-29) others have questioned Lessig on. As Heather observed, this video does indeed condense some of the scariest/grossest bits of the show (and was pretty much a mini-movie for “Swiggity-Swag the Nightmare Stag”: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/swiggity-swag-the-nightmare-stag), but it also gives an excellent overview of the important dynamics of the first season. Essentially, it is a clever multimedia summary which highlights certain elements while cutting others for effect. Even the song chosen for this video fits excellently–even if you happen to recognize it (as I did) as Tom ODell’s “Another Love” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwpMEbgC7DA) and realize the video is seamlessly using only parts of the original song to not only suit the theme of the former but give an alternative meaning to the latter.

    1. I agree – I didn’t talk here about it, but the manipulation and changed meaning is a two-way street for video/audio. Crack vids, I think, can point that out especially. There is one Hannibal crack vid in which the vidder uses Christian Bale’s rant about the person walking around on set during filming and sets it over the Nightmare stag – “I don’t need to start walking; he needs to stop walking!” Never in a million years would I put those two together, but there’s such a fascinating parallel created.

  3. Caitlin,

    I’ve been intrigued by the negative responses that Lessig has garnered so far, because while I agree that he tends toward hyperbole, I also feel that hyperbole responds to a kind of copyright fanaticism that the crack videos illustrate and work against. I’m also intrigued that your screenshot suggests that the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust is spending time tracking down YouTube copyright violators. What’s up with that?


    1. You know, I couldn’t exactly tell you about that video – I don’t remember it concretely. I think it might have had something to do with a filmed version of an essay that was particularly popular – but I’m not certain.

  4. Technical question: can everyone see my comment to this blog entry (from 3/19 at 10:39pm)? WordPress informs me that my comment is “awaiting moderation,” but I’m not sure why–Caitlin or Joe, do you need to approve it before it can be officially posted? Has anyone else run across this issue?

    1. Petra, I think I needed to approve your last comment b/c it had mjltiple links in it, which made WordPress suspect it was spam. Libel! You are now approved! ~jh

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