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    Posted July 27, 2007

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Equity Eyes YouTube

If You See Something, Forward the Link!

Members Encouraged to Report Illegal Footage to:

By James Ludwig
Chair, Equity New Technology Committee

I do it. My friends do it. Lots and lots of Equity members do it.

We watch videos on YouTube. Skateboarding dogs, cats falling off of couches, homemade music videos, video blogs - I'll finish this list in a minute.

AEA's Filming and Taping Dept Equity's Filming and Taping Department monitors the broadcasting, taping, and filming provisions under every Equity Agreement and Code. The Taping department also considers requests for tapings that are not provided for within an Agreement or Code and, if approved, negotiates the terms and conditions under which these tapings may occur. Equity maintains strict prohibitions concerning the broadcasting, filming or taping of theatrical productions, in order to protect the artistic and financial viability of the live medium. With the advent of digital technology and mobile recording devices, Actors' performances have become even more vulnerable to exploitation. Equity continues to monitor the internet and develop new strategies to protect Actors' images and artistry.

For more information, call Dwane Upp (212-869-8530 x341) or email

So what is YouTube? YouTube is an extremely popular video sharing website where users can share, watch, and rate video clips. Anyone can become a user, and YouTube, which was started in 2005, has grown into an entire universe of video content, which is available for anyone with a computer and a decent internet connection to see.

But there's a sticky problem; users can, and often do, upload copyrighted content. Content that is owned by someone who hasn't given permission for it to be there. In Equity's case, clips from Regional, Off-Broadway and Broadway shows appear on YouTube with disturbing regularity. For example, recently I watched five minutes of the play "Little Dog Laughed" which had been captured on a cellphone camera. So how do we, as Union members, protect ourselves, and our property?

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act was signed into law in 1998. The DMCA states that if copyrighted material appears on the internet without permission, the person who placed it there is responsible. Thus, in the case of YouTube, whoever placed the video on YouTube, not YouTube itself, is to blame. So, under this law, we have two options: 1) Ask YouTube to reveal the identity of who uploaded the video, and/or 2) Ask YouTube to take the video down.

Here's where you as an Equity member, come in. Let's say you're surfing through YouTube (or ANYWHERE on the internet) and you see a clip from a show that you are certain is an Equity production. You can try to get it taken down yourself (which can be a long process) or you can simply copy the link in your web browser into an email and sent it to this address: Equity has a direct line to YouTube; if we say, "Take it down," YouTube just does it. No questions asked.

Here in New York, the MTA has a safety campaign entitled, "If you see something, say something." From now on, as far as copyrighted material on the internet goes, here's our version: "If you see something, FORWARD THE LINK to"

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