Well, they've gone and done it:
YouTube has taken down the controversial Michael Moore-produced documentary Planet of the Humans in response to a copyright infringement claim by a British environmental photographer. The movie, which has been condemned as inaccurate and misleading by climate scientists and activists, allegedly includes a clip used without the permission of the owner Toby Smith, who does not approve of the context in which his material is being used.
I'm not particularly fond of Michael Moore, but Moore and Jeff Gibbs (his longtime collaborator who produced and narrates this documentary) are old pros, and I am pretty skeptical of the claim that they would allow a project as sensitive as this, which they produced knowing that they would take tons of fire from their fellow lefties, to be fouled up by a copyright violation. Especially when some powerful people -- many of whom fall into the group of Moore and Gibbs accuse of perpetuating the Green Energy boondoggle to make themselves extremely rich -- have been looking for an excuse to censor it since it was released.
Gibbs made roughly the same point in his statement:
“This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shut down a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert the right to free speech.”
Gibbs said he was working with YouTube to resolve the issue and have the film back up as soon as possible.
It is worth noting that Toby Smith, who made the complaint, said that he went directly to YouTube rather than to Moore and Gibbs precisely because he has a problem with the content of the documentary. As he put it, "I wasn’t interested in negotiation. I don’t support the documentary, I don’t agree with its message and I don’t like the misleading use of facts in its narrative.” Sounds a lot like one of the "political critics" of Planet of the Humans.
To be fair, this is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. The film was released on April 21st, and was only supposed to remain up on YouTube for 30 days. Because of its success -- at the time YouTube pulled it it had been viewed more than 8 million times -- the run was extended by another month. Smith's complaint got the film pulled just a few days after it was originally supposed to come down. Even so, the whole thing remains highly suspicious. Is this, perhaps, the first big move in YouTube's long-bruited crackdown on wrongthink in anticipation of the presidential election in the fall? Their increasingly censorious tendencies are supposedly among the reasons for podcaster Joe Rogan's just announced decision to leave the platform for Spotify beginning in September.
In any event, if you were not among the millions of viewers lucky enough to catch Planet of the Humans before the PC police got to it, take some time to read The Pipeline's coverage from back when it was first released. In the meantime, Moore and Gibbs have posted the documentary at Vimeo.