"Behind the Typeface" booted off YouTube

cheshiredave's picture

I just got word yesterday that "Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black" was one of the victims of YouTube's purge of 100,000 videos this week that allegedly violate Viacom's copyrights. (Viacom owns VH1, which owns "Behind the Music," which my movie parodies.) When you're dealing with a number like 100,000, it's awfully difficult to evaluate each one on its merits. Furthermore, it's a privilege -- not a right -- to be on YouTube, so getting kicked off isn't something that I can get that self-righteous about. They don't want to be sued, and I can't really blame them, though I do think they could have taken a better stand than they did.

However, as an indirect target of Viacom's bullying, you'd better believe that I am extremely upset that Viacom doesn't recognize the fair use doctrine of the U.S. Copyright Act. This is one more case of a giant corporation throwing its weight around just because it can, and I'm not willing to be a victim of it.

So I'm taking my case to the street. With any luck, news will spread and Viacom will get the bad press it so richly deserves.

Many thanks to that other company that begins with V for its support. You guys are the best.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Dang. This sucks, Chesh. Do you have a petition to sign or some other way we can all rally behind you?

Stephen Coles's picture

I support your fight.

At least the version in decent quality (not YouTube crap-res) is still up at Veer.

Si_Daniels's picture

So when Google says "we're not EVIL" that stands for "Enjoying Viacom's Imminent Litigation"? ;-)

Thomas Phinney's picture

For those who aren't familiar with copyright law, "parody" offers a nice exemption for allowing derivative works. Leastways, that's my understanding of it, I'm not a lawyer, and you shouldn't take this as legal advice. fnord.


blank's picture

If you really want to get something done, contact the EFF and get them to sue Viacom on your behalf.

cheshiredave's picture

No online petition as yet. This is the first stop on my anti-Viacom tour...

aluminum's picture

I believe the EFF has already gotten the ball rolling:


cheshiredave's picture

Nice! I emailed them about mine. Thanks for the heads-up!

Grant Hutchinson's picture

FWIW, Veer has yet to be contacted by Viacom regarding anything, BTT or otherwise. I am going to assume that they're not necessarily savvy enough to poke around non-YouTubian venues for similar material. Regardless, a fine pain in the southern cushies.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Perhaps we should just refer to them as evil V so as not to get on google too quickly.

Stephen Coles's picture

I think it would be hard to compete with the 8 million other sites referring to YouTube and this scandal. So no worries about Google.

bieler's picture

“For those who aren’t familiar with copyright law, “parody” offers a nice exemption for allowing derivative works.”

Does this also apply to modification of fonts? :—)


Stephen Coles's picture

Sure, a parody of a typeface (Arial vs. Helv), but not a modification of the original curves and software.

Dan Gayle's picture

I just watched that Cooper Vid at Veer. Awesome! That must have taken a long time to accomplish. Great work.

My roomate overheard me listening to it. Now he really thinks I'm nuts. "Behind the Typeface? NERD!" Pointing his finger and laughing.

smarks's picture

Hear, hear. This is yet another example of creativity and freedom being swept away in the the battle among entrenched corporate interests. Now that Google owns YouTube there is real money involved which has attracted Viacom's interest. I don't know how well capitalized Veer is. Perhaps small enough not to attract this kind of attention. Still....

Incidentally, I just ran across Lawrence Lessig's excellent talk on "Free Culture" which describes just this issue. See


for a transcript and a link to the Flash version of his slide presentation with him speaking on the audio track. (Also note his excellent and unorthodox use of PowerPoint.) The talk is a few years old but I'm sure you'll agree the issue is still alive today.

The EFF video on the topic specifically mentions parody as an example of fair use. This is worth fighting for! Time for me to send some $ to the EFF.

BTW Chesh, Behind the Typeface is a great video and I enjoyed it very much. I think of it every time I see Cooper Black in the wild.


swiss dots's picture

Viacom won't come after Veer or Chesh, because they don't have grounds, the film is a clear parody. The takedown notices were a bargaining tactic by Viacom in their negotiations to get licensing fees out of Google. Google is just going along with it, they're more concerned with pleasing Viacom and getting those Daily Show clips back up than any fair use issues.

And who knows, maybe the Viacom flunkies who compiled the list of those 100,000 clips thought it actually was from Behind the Music! It is a spot-on parody...

Happy Yellow Bumble Bee's picture

Hi, I just joined this site. I watched your film on utube. My roomates and I all loved it. Your film was pulled because it was a parody? If I'm correct, I don't think that it is a copyright issue, you should be allowed to keep you film up. I seem to recall that all publications and films have a right to 117 (or so) "coincidences" before they become intellectual so-and-so infringements.

Keep fighting, keep working

david h's picture

Apropos Viacom, YouTube...

Viacom sues. Seeking more than $1 billion in damages

Joe Pemberton's picture

Best of luck with your push Cheshire. Long live parody and long live independent publishing!

I am a big fan of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Citing the EFF has helped protect forum sites and blogs from libel claims. Some people (possibly they're greedy, possibly they're just whiners) still believe that a forum or blog site is accountable for comments and statements made by visitors and contributors. The EFF demonstrates this is not the case and that blogs and forums cannot be treated like editorial publications that have centralized control of what gets "published."

Of course I'm not talking about any specific incident that I'm aware of, but to the general environment blogs and user-generated sites operate in.

dberlow's picture

Just call it "B-hind..." and repost the suckka, over and over again until they give up.


HaleyFiege's picture

Pfft! Defending fair use of copyright laws is basically the same thing as defending Communism!

Switch to Vimeo - http://www.vimeo.com/ or veoh - http://www.veoh.com

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I like David's idea. :-)

kegler's picture

Defending fair use of copyright laws is basically the same thing as defending Communism! what does this mean???

repost the suckka, over and over again until they give up. Seems to work for pirates.

David Rault's picture

Hey Chesh,

Just a heads-up to wish you luck, your movie is very good and nicely done; I am actually sad that you didn't go on with this kind of movies, but I guess it's pretty much time consuming. If there is a petition or whatever, you can count me in.

By the way, I'm currently writing a book about typography in France, and I am talking about your movie in it; I'd have some questions to ask you about it, if you have some time, can you send me an email at davidrault@gmail.com?

Thank you,

dberlow's picture

"repost the suckka, over and over again until they give up. Seems to work for pirates."
Not really. Font Pirates, I assume you mean, are the post and run variety, aren't they? Copyright Heroes, on the other hand, stick to their posts. Also, the Damage in this potential case, is much more substantial, and the party responsible for this damage by obviously overzealously pursuing protection, has lots of $$$. One can look at this as a problem, as in they have tons of lawyers to burn, (so to speak). Or, one can look at this as an opportunity as a great way to finance a next movie, "Viacomic Sans", perhaps.


dezcom's picture

“Viacomic Sans”

LOL! Ya made me spit coffee all over my keyboard, David! :-)


Jackie Frant's picture

First I would like to tell you how much I did enjoy Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black, -- it did make me chuckle, poor down and out little typeface waiting for its comeback.

Second, I have found over the years when someone if preparing to sue everyone for some sort of infringement -- it normally means they are in some sort of trouble.

I watched the chain Steak & Brew sue every restaurant in the world that had a similar name - only to be countersued by Steak & Ale out of Texas who had the name a good many years before S&B were on the scene... that's the one that opened my eyes to it -- and there have been many more since.

Perhaps for YouTube - you could, heaven forbid, change the name - for posting purposes?

Thank you for letting us know when it was there - it would have been a pity not to have seen it.

And I'm not a lawyer either - but I do remember reading about comics being able to make fun of the real world - afterall, how do you think South Park gets away with it?

Dan Gayle's picture

There are so many dang homemade videos with unlicensed music on YouTube, it's not funny. There are even a ton of "Behind the Music" satires on there as well.

I wholeheartedly second the suggestion that you rename it and repost it.

The "moderator" who removed it must have had their stick sideways :p

dberlow's picture

Hope it was decaf, Dez!


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