For immediate release: March 2, 2021
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Image description: A screenshot taken from Bellingcat’s website in which Riley June Williams is making an in-video Nazi salute. Below the image a note reads “Editors note: This video has had the sound temporarily removed at the request of the copyright owner of the music featured in the original clip.”
Once again, our current copyright system is failing. This time, it’s obstructing coverage of the ongoing Capitol riot saga by removing the audio from evidence in an ongoing investigation. The “heil Hitler” video of a woman who is accused of stealing Nancy Pelosi’s laptop has been censored by a DMCA copyright claim.
The video, which Bellingcat broke and identified as being of Riley June Williams, shows Williams dancing with an audio overlay in which she states: “Hammer was right all along. There is no political solution. All that is left is acceleration. Heil Hitler.”
But due to a copyright claim from representatives of electronic music artist DJ Hyper, whose song “Spoiler” was used in the video, Bellingcat has had to err on the side of removal and censor the audio, including Williams’ “heil Hitler” statement.
Fight for the Future has downloaded a copy of the uncensored video in the event that Twitter and other social media platforms also uphold a DMCA claim on the footage, and it is available to journalists by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Increasingly, copyright is being misused as a tool of censorship not only for creators, but now also for newsworthy information with journalistic importance,” said Lia Holland (she/they) Campaigns and Communications Director at Fight for the Future. “Copyright infringement should play no role in whether or not we are able to recognize and respond to hate. But here we are in a twisted world in which the copyright maximalist work of the lobbyists of the RIAA is protecting a neonazi trying to hide from the consequences of participating in a failed coup, just because she played a few seconds of a copyrighted song in her video. Where is the line here? If some white supremacists claim responsibility for a hate crime in a video with a Metallica soundtrack, will we never be able to hear that video because of Metallica’s copyright? The copyright system is totally broken in our country.”
In February, police were caught playing pop music while being filmed with the intention of making videos of them impossible to post on mainstream social media outlets. Copyright maximalists have forced major internet platforms to adopt automated content ID systems that remove all audio from a video, regardless of whether the video is of a concert or a cop. Recently, copyright maximalist band Metallica was censored during their own performance on Twitch because of Twitch’s copyright ID system.