I know, exciting title, right? This seems to have erupted of late and so I wanted to clarify my stance on what linking to assorted editions of films means.
I wish it was as an easy black and white matter but I am trying to strike a balance between directing readers to the best edition available and acknowledging the realities of access. I have never been particularly interested in debating the picayune details of assorted editions (and the next person who yells about progressive scan is in hot water) but I do know that certain companies are the gold standard for quality silent film content and I try to plug their work wherever possible.
And then there’s everyone else. It’s a grey world down here. I try to give enthusiastic links to companies who are doing great work (Kino, Flicker Alley, Criterion Collection, etc.) and just be like “Here’s a link” to ones I am not sure about. I base my practices on two older, more established silent film resources: Nitrateville and Silent Era.
Basically, if it is available on a site more famous than mine (Amazon, Wal-Mart, various venerable home video dealers) I will acknowledge that and provide a link. I do not venture into obscure torrents or fell-off-the-back-of-the-truck (or, in this case, recorded off of TCM) sites.
As Nitrateville puts it in its content guidelines: “Basically, it comes down to, if you’re talking about something that’s out there in the world, openly and readily found, that’s legitimate. But if you’re in any way facilitating access to well-hidden stuff for other NitrateVillains, even inadvertently, that’s not. “
That being said, I do not want to be dragged into any copyright wars and unless I have word from the actual copyright holder, I am not going to make public statements about any company other than to comment on the release’s quality or lack thereof. I have to hear things from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. It’s not that I don’t believe there is piracy, it’s that I don’t want to be sued for accusing someone of a crime on the internet without firsthand knowledge of the situation.
Obviously, I have released my own DVD and I have had problems with people plagiarizing my site content so I am very sympathetic to the plight of victims but when I have had an issue with content theft, I have fought my own battles and taken my own risks in calling the miscreants out. Unless the copyright holder is willing to make some kind of similar public statement to lend me legal cover, I can’t dive into the fray. And, frankly, it seems pretty unfair to expect me to take risks that the people with actual skin in the game are unwilling to take themselves.
This has come up a few times. The reason why I do not host YouTube links unless I personally know the person posting them (for example, I link to Ben Model’s channel and Chris Bird’s reasonably often) is that entire websites have been taken down for hosting multiple YouTube videos that were deemed a copyright infringement. (Look up MySoju to see one example.)
Further, streamed content is ephemeral and I don’t have time to continuously update links to videos that may no longer exist.
My Authority in this Matter
I have none. I am neither a lawyer nor am I intimately acquainted with the various ins and outs of the upper echelons of silent film releases. I get a few review copies now and again but other than that, I usually learn about things approximately when you do.
I am just a blogger trying to strike a balance, support the good guys, navigate the grey areas and not get sued. I am not the silent film copyright police and I do not want the job because, frankly, I am busy and under enough stress as it is.
Once more for those in the back, I am happy to remove links to illegitimate content if I am asked by the copyright holders but I cannot make that call without their direct say-so.
Update: I have closed the comments because I have said my say. As a reminder, I will not tolerate any advocating of piracy and I also will not link to any accusations of piracy due to legal liability. Be well.