CBS Issues Copyright Claim on 38-Hour ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Video by YouTuber Quinton Reviews

CBS strikes down 'Beverly Hillbillies' video by Quinton Reviews
Nobi Kurniawan/Shutterstock Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock CBGP Television/YouTube

Quinton Hoover has made a name for himself by making incredibly long and introspective YouTube video essays. On his “Quinton Reviews” channel, he’s amassed an audience of over 880,000 subscribers. They are willing to sit through eight hour reviews of “iCarly” and 20 hours of “Sam and Cat,” breaking down the shows in intense detail.

But on April 4, in a slightly delayed April Fool’s Day video, Hoover broke his record. He uploaded a 38-hour video review of the once-popular (at times politically incorrect) sitcom “Beverly Hillbillies.”

Started in 1962, it’s the story of a man named Jed Clampett and his family who strike oil on their land, thus turning from broke mountaineers into multi-millionaires. Throughout nine seasons, their lack of understanding of the upper crust of culture causes hijinks to ensue.

With its final episode airing in 1971, the show isn’t exactly a property popular with today’s zillennials. So in Hoover’s review, he collaborated with his dad, Russ.

A collaboration with Dad

Russ did most of the narration and explanation of every episode in the series. In early 2022, right after the pair had started work on the scripts, Hoover’s dad was in a serious head-on collision car crash. He “nearly died more than once,” according to a post from Hoover on his YouTube community tab. 

“To us, this was how we coped,” Hoover told Passionfruit. “If you can imagine spending 10 months stuck in bed trying to recover, the boredom and common isolation would become deafening. So having Dad work on scripts, and once he was home, recording, way just how he got through this.”

But Hoover’s dad had little understanding of YouTube’s incredibly complex and draconian copyright system. This led him to include full sections of the show with voice-over descriptions used as commentary. In most Quinton Reviews videos, Hoover only lets the video play with little to no audio from the show used.

Though the first season and part of the second of the Beverly Hillbillies are in the public domain, the rest of the episodes that Hoover’s dad had used were in murky copyright waters at best. 

The week after the YouTube video was published, CBS issued two copyright claims on parts of the video featuring public domain episodes. Hoover appealed these under the public domain.

But on April 11, CBS claimed footage from an episode in the latter half of season two, which isn’t covered in the public domain. Paramount Global Content Protection sent Hoover a sternly-worded email (which has been seen by Passionfruit). 

“We disagree with your assertion that the video qualifies as fair use,” it reads. “As a resolution, we propose that you agree to withdraw your appeal, remove the video, and agree not to repost it in its current form.”

The email never outwardly expresses a legal threat. But, according to Hoover, “the energy is very much that they do not want the video up in its current form.” So rather than risk a long and difficult legal battle against a corporate giant, he decided to leave Beverly Hills. He took the video down.

Hoover admits that he “should have intervened more” to edit out audio and content that could have been flagged. But “getting to create stuff” with his Dad is when he’s at his “happiest.”

“If they took us to court, it would ruin my life in one way or the other,” Hoover said. “Whenever I speak to Dad, he hasn’t spoken about how he feels.”

“He’s the kind of guy who just wants to do work,” Hoover continued. “So within a day of being told the news, he had asked for a guide on how to rewrite everything. He has 24 pages done so far.” 

How the DMCA works

YouTube’s copyright claim system is built on the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA protects online service providers from copyright disputes caused by users who upload infringing content on their platforms.

If individuals feel their content is being used illegally and doesn’t fall under fair use, they can issue a copyright claim against a video. The claimed can either take down the video or send a counter claim, arguing why the video falls under fair use. If the claimer doesn’t remove the video, the only other option is to head to court.

Fair use law protects commentary, parody, educational, or news content that uses copyrighted materials — so long as that content is not meant to substitute or replace the existing copyrighted work within the market. But there’s a thin line between fair use and stolen content, which hasn’t been argued much in court regarding commentary and reaction videos.

In 2016, YouTuber Matt Hosseinzadeh sued Hila and Ethan Klein of the comedy channel h3h3Productions, alleging copyright infringement for the use of segments of his videos in their own. The Kleins eventually won, setting a precedent for fair use.

But a win for the Kleins does not mean a win for every online commentator like Quinton Reviews. The judge in Klein’s case clearly stated that “the Court is not ruling here that all ‘reaction videos’ constitute fair use.” 

Making fun of a quirky fitness influencer and commentating on a non-politically correct television show are entirely different beasts. CBS letting one creator like Quinton Reviews get away with using their copyrighted material could lead down a slippery slope.

“It might just be about enforcement, sending messages to YouTubers that CBS won’t tolerate the use of copyrighted materials, period,” Alexandra Roberts,  Professor of Law and Media at Northeastern University School of Law, told Passionfruit. “It may also be that Quinton is on their list, and they are keeping a close eye on him. And just at this moment, they decided to speak up and make clear their power in this situation.” 

Still, it seems odd to so ferociously attack a YouTuber like Quinton Reviews bringing eyes to content viewers may not have encountered otherwise.

“There’s a good chance they’d never actually sue. But they know they can cause so much chaos for a content creator. They can jeopardize their channel or other social media accounts,” Roberts said. “Once the creator takes a step back and thinks about the time, energy, and resource necessary to defend a copyright suit, they realize it isn’t worth fighting.” 

But Hoover isn’t giving up. He believes that about 22 hours of the video clearly qualify under fair use. The other 16 will be rewritten and retooled, potentially turned into a podcast. 

“It’s gotten to a point that I will probably never directly make back the money we spent on this video,” Hoover said. “But it’s gotten to the point that it’s much more about the love of it all than the money.”

This article has been updated to reflect clarifying remarks from Hoover.

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