Critiquing structural inequality? Incriminatingly few copyright issues.

I’ve seen some interesting videos circulating on Tumblr recently, “Every Single Word Spoken By A Character of Color in…” Their creator, actor Dylan Marron has now set up a standalone Tumblr for them: everysinglewordspoken.tumblr.com. These videos copy source content, so of course they raise some copyright issues. They’re transforming and commenting on the original work, so there’s a fair use argument to be made for them even if they were longer. But for the most part, these movies grant so little screen time to speaking characters of color, that the copyright issues are negligible.

The Fault In Our Stars has one speaking character of color; hence the video is 47 seconds long. Even if the transformative use argument was weaker, that’s a -tiny- fraction of the full running time of the movie. The second fair use factor, “amount and substantiality of the portion used”, would -definitely- weigh in favor of fair use.

Better (Worse!) yet, Into The Woods has (after the few seconds of title intro), zero speaking/singing characters of color. While a doctrine often neglected in copyright cases, this might be -so little copying- as to be a “de minimis” use (i.e. noninfringing solely because of the negligibility of the use.)

It’s sadly hilarious, and also a really damning illustration of the unreality of Hollywood casting, that these videos raise so little in the way of copyright issues.

(If this sounds familiar, it may be because I tweeted about this a bit last week.)b

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