We Just Found Out Why Elon’s X is So Bad For Creators

CREATOR NEWSLETTER


Yesterday, Passionfruit’s “Reactorverse Podcast” host Eric Rodriguez uploaded a 2-minute hype video onto Twi…. *sigh* X. His fan edit took a scene from the new Disney+/Star Wars show “Ahsoka” — featuring iconic “Rebels” character Sabine Wren playing chicken on her speeder bike with two pilots — and remixed it with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”

Eric was not the only person on the internet to clock the similarities to the group’s 1994 chart hit, but he was the one who had his X account locked because of it. Approximately 12 hours after uploading, after his video had been shared almost 900 times on the platform, Eric was locked out of his account, which is when he discovered his video had been flagged for removal by someone claiming to work for the original copyright holder. The email he retroactively received told him his account would be locked until he took the action of reviewing his account and re-agreeing to X’s new Terms and Services. 

Currently, his video remains blocked. The person who had claimed the video was not Grand Royal/Capitol Records (the current owners of “Sabotage”) nor Disney. Instead, it was an individual filing on behalf of Disney via a Warsaw business with a name so generic it immediately brought to mind Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Video Production News” from “Nightcrawler.” The business listed no street address, province/region, and no (optional) phone number. In the space allotted for a link to the original material to prove the claimant’s ownership, it led to the IMDB page for the show.

Now, all of this is a little weird, but not, unfortunately, unique. On any other platform, fan edits are routinely flagged for removal due to the incredibly hard line music studios take toward digital piracy. But as we wrote about in our last newsletter, YouTube’s Content ID and other similar services on other platforms match videos through the audio, which would have come from the record label. So far, very few services are sophisticated enough to identify material based solely on its visuals; this is literally why fan edits — composed of short clips featuring popular TV or movie characters and set to music — exist in the first place. 

As Musk is currently in the middle of a campaign to court creators into making original content for his platform with vague promises of monetary compensation (provided you pay him the $11 per month for premium membership), there are a few other things in this case that give us pause: 

1) It was Musk himself who decided to extend the length of video uploads to 2 hours for its premium subscribers, which resulted pretty much immediately in users uploading entire films onto the app formerly known as Twitter

2) Musk has been stereotypically full-throated about his disapproval over what he’s labeled an abuse of DMCA-enabled overreach by entities purporting to be copyright holders.


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3) Monetary incentive is the usual driver of these claims; studios and creators worry that the proliferation of their work across the internet for free will drive down demand for the actual product. For this reason, the visual components of fan edits usually fall under fair use, as they are not a substitute for the original work. 

4) The company’s name was generic to the point of unGoogleable, which is exactly the point. 

Not to get all Pepe Silva here, but doing some digging revealed that the person who filed the claim has a history of spurious mass DMCA takedowns on Tumblr. And though he lists himself as CEO for a business located in Warsaw, the LTD is listed through gov.uk’s Companies Holding is located in England. The DMCA claimant is indeed one of the company’s three co-founders, but motions were filed in 2018 terminating him from his position as director. It was followed by a cessation of that individual’s significant control (aka stake) in the anti-piracy program. The company’s website has not been updated since 2020. 

This is all to say: whoever the person filing the claim was, his relationship to his own company is dubious, let alone the company’s relationship to Disney as a client. 

Guess that Musk — a man who recently set himself up as a protector against frivolous DMCA takedowns and is as we speak currently courting creators to switch platforms over to X — is actually more bark than bite. He’s already running X to cave to removal requests from foreign dictators, now it turns out he’ll comply with even the most suspicious-sounding request. Whatever internal moderation team existed before Musk took over Twitter, we can only assume they went the way of the company’s publicists, safety and dev ops teams. 

Great news, if you’re a studio, copyright holder, or anyone looking to disappear creator content with the means to lie on a processing form.


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