YouTube yanks goofy "Death Star" clip at Viacom's insistence

Christopher Knight, a former candidate for the Rockingham, North Carolina Board of Education, has incurred the wrath of Viacom and YouTube by posting a segment from Viacom's VH1 show Web Junk 2.0 from a video Knight had created.

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Christopher Knight, a former candidate for the Rockingham, North Carolina Board of Education, has incurred the wrath of Viacom and YouTube by posting a segment from Viacom's VH1 show Web Junk 2.0 from a video Knight had created.

Knight, an avowed Star Wars fan, alleges that Viacom used the clip (which contains some obvious "Star Wars" spoof scenes, without his permission.

"Viacom used my video without permission on their commercial television show, and now says that I am infringing on THEIR copyright for showing the clip of the work that Viacom made in violation of my own copyright!," Christopher writes.

Hey let's look at another freeze frame from the one minute, one second video:

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Hey Chris, take it away:

Last fall, as part of my campaign for Rockingham County Board of Education, I produced three commercials that ran on local television. The first of them – which I simply dubbed "Christopher Knight for School Board TV Commercial #1" – was hosted on YouTube the same evening that the ad started running on WGSR in Reidsville. You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLi5B0Iefsk.Well, the concept of a candidate for Board of Education pitching himself by using the Death Star to blow up a little red schoolhouse is admittedly unusual. The YouTube clip got around quite a bit: as of this writing it's received over sixty-six thousand views. I put it and the other two ads on YouTube so that I could post them on this blog (because I was trying to chronicle everything that happened during the course of my campaign). And I'd always intended to keep them up after the election too, in case anyone else might find and enjoy watching them. Heck, I've always liked to think that maybe someday, others might see how I was a candidate and feel led to run for office themselves!

Christopher has one word for this action: chutzpah. But more than that, he sees ominous precadent:

I have written to YouTube's division of copyright enforcement, telling them that the VH1 clip is derived from my own work and that I should be entitled to use it as such. So far I haven't heard anything back from them. After reading that last part of the initial e-mail that they sent me, I'm wondering how apt they might be to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to wipe out the accounts of anyone who even raises such a fuss about something like this, no matter how well-grounded it is.

What does this mean for independent producers of content, if material they create can be co-opted by a giant corporation without permission or apology or compensation? When in fact, said corporations can take punitive action against you for using material that you created on your own?

I'd agree. I get the idea. Elect Chris and he'll change things educationally by pulverizing the way things are being done right now. Maybe Chris can execute a Death Star zap and implode the arbitrary "No Child Left Behind?"