It is no secret that YouTube is at the service of copyright holders. The site makes it easy to make a copyright claim in line with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act on their website.
If the filmmakers behind "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists," which premiered at Slamdance earlier this year and went on to screen at SXSW, wanted a recently uploaded video of an early cut of their film to be pulled from YouTube, they could easily do so.
The trouble, of course, is that taking it down now is futile. It's out there, and what's done is done.
For "We Are Legion" director Brian Knappenberger, it was just a matter of time before the film was uploaded onto a mainstream streaming site. "I'm surprised it took so long though. What's been uploaded is an old version. I've been changing it a lot. When we started making this film, Mubarak was still in power. So much has happened during the making of this film. I have often felt compelled to change it and update it. It's a living, evolving, alive document. There's been some big revelations, one of the most prominent, most aggressive members happened to be an FBI informant."
As for the versions that were uploaded, a student in Italy was the first to upload the film, an old version submitted to an Italian film festival. "He was mortified that he had released the film, and he took it down himself. But by that point, it had already been out there."
Outside of YouTube, versions of the film were floating around as torrents. "A lot of anons have full versions of the film and chose not to put it on bigger sites," Knappenberger explained. "But I think for them, piracy is not about hurting an independent filmmaker. It's more about taking it to the corporate powers that be."
"A lot of films have been cautious about piracy and exactly this kind of thing, and I haven't been. I couldn't be. I wasn't being cavalier. It hasn't been a project done in secret. It's nice to finally be done with it. Honestly, I've done work for PBS Frontline and National Geographic, and a 23-part Bloomberg series. This is the film that keeps on evolving. It hasn't been the typical finish-it-and-get-the-film-out. But it's done now."
Will people be patient and wait to watch the film legally?
Knappenberger is hoping that people will line up when the film is released theatrically in Los Angeles and New York on October 19. The final, finish, legal film will be available on digital VOD platforms on October 30, including a spot on iTunes (pre-order just went live) and direct buy from the film's website using VHX.
Here's the film's new trailer, which is debuting right here, right now on Indiewire: