"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by SCG Power Rangers LLC." That's what interested YouTube viewers see when going to check out this week's most popular new video - a Power Rangers "bootleg" fan film from producer Adi Shankar.
The gritty, R-rated Power Rangers short starring James Van der Beek and Katie Sackhoff and directed by Joseph Kahn, garnered over 11 million views in just two days, and the extremely positive reception and media buzz surrounding the project didn't stop Saban Entertainment (the property owner) from having the video pulled down from both Vimeo and YouTube after Shankar refused to take it down upon their initial requests. Perhaps they don't want to draw attention away from their own film plans for a live-action movie coming from Lionsgate next summer...
Shankar, a producer on films including Dredd, The Grey and Lone Survivor, and previous "Bootleg Universe" fan films The Punisher: Dirty Laundry and Venom: Truth in Journalism (which remain viewable on YouTube) was hit with both a copyright claim and takedown for the video yesterday from Haim Saban and within an hour, also received a cease-and-desist letter from Warner/Chappell Music because of the remixed theme music, an original composition.
Understandably flustered in the wake of the copyright claims, Shankar appeared on HuffPost Live moments after the incident, and expressed his concerns over what this actually means for the state of the internet and detrimental it is for general enthusiast creativity.
"[The music in the film] is an original composition. It's an original score. So now they're attacking the remix culture. So now what does that say about anyone on the Internet who does a musical parody, who does a cover song?"
Shankar released the following statement on his Facebook page where the video is now hosted and available for viewing. Shankar thanks Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg for allowing him to host it there without risk of another takedown.
To Whom It May Concern:
Today, I was deeply disappointed to learn that Saban Brands decided to attack my Power/Rangers “Bootleg Universe One-Shot” film. To all the viewers that enjoyed this film, I consider this an outright infringement on freedom of expression and individualism. I set out to make this film because I am a childhood fan of the Power Rangers. As children our retinas are burned with iconic images and as we grow older these images come to represent crucial moments within the trajectories of our own lives. This film is a homage to the original creators of the Power Rangers, and a parody of a television series we all grew up loving. Films like my Power/Rangers “Bootleg” are vital expressions of creativity in our troubled world. If we suppress this creativity and become passive participants in the consumption of the culture we live in, we implicitly allow a dangerous precedent to be set for the future of the internet.
P.S. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for hosting Power/Rangers and taking a stand
If you haven't seen it or wish to watch it again, below is the Facebook embed of the short:
How this situation shakes out will be very telling of what other creators, fans, filmmakers - and everyone in between - can do going forward and what constitutes creative freedom vs. corporate control and copyright abuse.
Update: The Power Rangers fan film is back up on Vimeo and YouTube after the lawyers of property owner Haim Saban and producer Adi Shankar. On YouTube there is now an age restriction and a new title "POWER/RANGERS: UNAUTHORIZED & VIOLENT [BOOTLEG UNIVERSE]" and on Vimeo there's a disclaimer (see below) which explains that this is not-for-profit fan film and that it's not affiliated with the canonical franchise so kids don't get confused with the hyper-violent take.
"Deboot of the Power Rangers. My take on the FAN FILM. Not a pilot, not a series, not for profit, strictly for exhibition. This is a bootleg experiment not affiliated or endorsed by Saban Entertainment or Lionsgate nor is it selling any product. I claim no rights to any of the characters (don’t send me any money, not kickstarted, this film is free). This is the NSFW version. An alternate safe version is on youtube."
Director Joseph Kahn tells Deadline:
"They put these disclaimers on so kids so don’t confuse our super-violent film with their Power Rangers brand. There are no hard feelings. We signed contracts. We can play it anywhere we want on all platforms. I think they realized that people just want to see it."
What would you like to see Shankar work on next?
Power Rangers hits theaters July 22, 2016.
Update source: Deadline
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