Global video streaming platform YouTube has pulled the controversial Planet of the Humans documentary, directed by Jeff Gibbs and executive produced by Michael Moore, from the site due to a copyright violation claim concerning an alleged use of uncleared footage, according to reports.
The film, which was posted for free viewing on the site in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in late April, takes an uncompromising look at what it deems as the failures of the environmental movement, including giving into corporate interests. Since its appearance on YouTube, it has garnered criticism from various voices within the environmental movement, including George Monbiot, Bill McKibben and filmmaker Josh Fox (Gasland). It first screened as a work in progress at Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival. Along with Moore and Gibbs (pictured left and center), Ozzie Zehner (right) serves as producer.
According to The Guardian, the copyright violation claim came from environmental photographer Toby Smith, who alleges the filmmakers used several seconds of footage from a project in which he traces the journeys of rare earth elements as they are extracted and used for various electronics and green technologies. Smith also told the UK news outlet that he didn’t approve of the context in which his material was used, and disagrees with the message of the film.
Gibbs and the filmmaking team, meanwhile, contend that the footage was used in accordance with fair use doctrine, which allows content creators limited and “transformative” uses of copyrighted materials without the permission of the original copyright holder in instances that can include commentary or criticism, or parody.
In a statement provided to Deadline, Gibbs said: “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 shutdown 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.” He added that he is working with YouTube to resolve the issue.