The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Is it OK to share links to films you’ve found on YouTube?

with 30 comments

A fellow blogger sent this tweet the other day:

“Found Cosmopolis on YouTube. I’m a fucking asshole I know, but I just can’t wait. I’m going to hell. But I so desperately want to see this.”

I got a little frown between my eyes as I read it. I was under the impression that he hoped to get some kind of absolution for a crime he was about to commit. Was I ready to give it to him or should I send him a good bashing over Twitter?

Reasons to hesitate
I hesitated, for several reasons. For one thing, I know how it is to live in a small country. New Zealand is pretty much the same as Sweden. You often have to wait for months or even years for films to arrive.  I could definitely sympathize with his desperation (although to be honest I’m anything but desperate to see this particular film from all I’ve heard about it, but that’s another issue).

Besides this blogger is a very nice guy, a good example to all of us and someone I definitely don’t want to point fingers at. Few bloggers have done as much as he has to spread love, support and information about high quality movies to the world, helping them to reach an audience. For sure that must count for something?

I also noted that he hadn’t included any link in his tweet. So even if he did something bad watching a new movie for free rather than rightfully paying for it, he didn’t encourage or help others to do the same thing.

And finally I asked myself: who am I to make judgments about people who watch movies on YouTube? I wasn’t completely innocent. Recently I watched La Jetée the same way. While it’s a black-and-white short film from the 50s, it doesn’t mean that it’s free for grabs. It’s not copyright free and it’s possible that it’s been released in a DVD edition that you can buy legally somewhere. I hadn’t bothered to investigate the issue.

Even if I don’t have the habit of watching illegally copied new movies on YouTube, I couldn’t truthfully say that I was completely clean. I wasn’t in a position where I comfortably could point fingers and throw stone at others.

To share or not to share?
And yet – I can’t quite get rid of the thought. When piracy is up for discussion, it’s often in the terms of shady websites where people use torrent technology to upload and download movies illegally. But isn’t sharing over YouTube just as bad?

On the other hand I know that there are young and upcoming filmmakers who are perfectly happy to get their short films distributed over YouTube. They see it as a chance to get established and get their name out there and if you link to their short film, you’re making them a service.

Sometimes it isn’t obvious if a film is legally uploaded and free-for-all to watch, or if it’s a case of piracy. I want to spread the word about odd little films that deserve more attention, but I don’t want to encourage theft. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

However today I’m going to take a chance here, spreading the word about two lovely short films I’ve watched recently. The first one was recommended to me by Bondo at The Movie Review Warehouse. It’s called Validation and is made by Kurt Kuenne. If this film doesn’t put a smile on your face I don’t know what will.

The second one is Jeremiah McDonald’s film A Conversation With My 12 Year Old Self: 20th Anniversary Edition, which I found as a consequence of watching Validation. You could describe as a 3:47 minute version of Looper and it’s awesome.

And with those links, it’s time to bring out some drinks here in the café. I hope you’ll get to watch many great movies during the weekend – in a legal manner, if possible. Cheers!

Written by Jessica

October 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm

30 Responses

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  1. Thing about this is that I don’t think it’s an absolute.

    So you watch films that are not available in your corner of the world on YouTube. Do you also pay hard-earned to support good films that play at your theatre? How about coughing up to rent/buy dvd’s? Netflix or iTunes? “Yes” to any of the above – you’re doing your part, a little YouTube’ing isn’t that bad. Say four Hail Mary’s and be on your way.

    In addition, I know people who have illegally watched films because of censorship issues. When my brother spent a year in Egypt, he started taking issue because films were stripped of any sort of sexual content, while turning a blind eye to nasty bits of violence. Streaming became a much better option.

    On the flip side, if your main avenue of film consumption is streaming/downloading titles illegally, you’re taking advantage and should think about breaking the habit. Regardless of how much you want to watch that particular title, I’d wager there are also hundreds of catalogue titles you want to see just as much that *are* available legally. Why not kill some time with them while you’re waiting for that one piece of forbidden fruit to become available.

    It’s all about balance.

    Ryan McNeil

    October 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    • I’ve got a “gold” card at my local theatre, meaning that I’m in the top section of their loyal customer’s programme. And I’m a working member of my local film club. And I rent movies in a DVD stor and borrow some at my library (which I have to assume indirectly will give the filmmakers a little something, though with emphasis on “little”). So I guess you could say I’m pretty supportive of film industry, even if I would watch a short here and there at YouTube.

      Censorship is definitely a vaild reason for watching movies online from alternative sources.

      In the end I think we need to take a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror and think over the “balance” as you call it and make sure that it doesn’t flip over to being a parasite.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

  2. As the first commenter said, there is no absolute line in the sand. If movie studios had their way you would not even be allowed to share a movie with someone by loaning them the DVD. They see that as exactly the same thing as sharing it with someone via the internet.

    My personal line is that I would be more than happy to watch films on DVD, if the damn studios would make them available. I am one of the people watching films from the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die books, and I have found that at least 150 of them are so obscure that they are unavailable, except via the internet. With another blogger, I put together a wiki that helps others find viewable copies of these otherwise unavailable films.

    True Story: I own every Oscar winning Best Picture on DVD, except for one – Cavalcade. It’s not available on Region 1 DVD. I’ve had a copy on my computer for 4-5 years, but I never watched it because I held out hope that whoever owned the rights would release it on DVD so I could buy it. This month I finally gave up and watched Cavalcade on my computer.

    I used to work with a lot of contractors from India. Periodically they would organize road trips to a big city to see a couple of movies from their home, but most of the time the only way they would be able to see any Bollywood movies would be via the internet.

    Chip

    October 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    • You definitely have a lot more movies than I do. I don’t have any big desire to actually own the DVDs and put the physical objects in myself. If I can rent or borrow them in a legal way, I’m more than happy to do so.

      I can imagine the 1001 project must be pretty much impossible to go through with in a legal manner.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm

  3. Well, with shadier sites it might give me pause to stream something, but YouTube is big enough and easy enough to get copyrighted material pulled from that I have no real hesitation watching something there if it is there in full and decent quality because clearly the rights holder isn’t too bothered about it. In a broader sense though, I know I do my part to support the film industry generally.

    Bondo

    October 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    • Hm… I still think it’s the one who is putting up material at YouTube illegaly or watch movies that are illegally uploaded, is the one who is to blame here. Not a film company that doesn’t constantly screen YouTube for copyright protected material. Particularly not small ones. Just because it’s POSSIBLE to steal something it doesn’t mean that it’s OK to do so.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm

  4. I don’t see it as an issue. I have both a NetFlix and HuluPlus subscription. I buy films generally every month, and I also order films for the library at the school I work at.

    I will say, though, that I am very careful about what I watch as an online film via YouTube or similar source. I watched Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees a couple of days ago that way. Why? Because there is no other way to see the film in the States. If it were available from a library or NetFlix, I’d see it that way. I do what I have to in those situations, and I’m not ashamed of it. If that’s the only way for me to see something, then it’s the only way I have to see it.

    Chip is pretty much right about loaning DVDs, too. If the only way to see an obscurity is to see it online, I’m all for it. Films otherwise available? Yeah, that’s not really the same thing.

    SJHoneywell

    October 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    • Yes, I think my line goes there too. If something is available or will be available shortly, you shouldn’t watch it on YouTube. If it’s not – well I guess it could send a signal to the market that there actually is a demand for this certain film and that they should consider a re-release.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm

  5. Interesting argument Jessica, and one I feel conflicted about having inspired. I think I have become so angry at the film distributors for being so lazy and taking such long, unbearable periods of time to bring movies here (and Cosmopolis won’t even go to a theatre near me since the local cinema only plays big blockbusters) that I think “stealing” the movie (to put it harshly, but accurately) is pretty much what they’re asking me to do. I don’t and have never used torrents, only YouTube for films if I happen to come across them on there, and I know that’s the same thing, but I don’t make a habit of it, especially for well-known movies. I use YouTube a lot for rare or little shown movies that haven’t received enough distribution to make them otherwise available to me, and I only feel guilty when I do it for movies that will make their way to my DVD shop sometime soon (Cosmopolis probably won’t show up here until next year, you see). Perhaps I shouldn’t be doing it, but as a film lover I’ve really hit a moral quandary: I want to see these great movies but I have to wait months longer than everyone else, which really doesn’t seem fair and is almost cruel. If that makes me impatient, so be it, I’m impatient, but I like to think of it as standing up almost aggressively to these horribly lazy, money-grabbing distributors who don’t think countries like New Zealand are important. That bothers me immensely, so until they pluck their act together, if I find a film I really want to see on YouTube that is months away from release here, I will give good consideration to watching it. Also, I’d like to note that I loved Cosmopolis and will be buying it on DVD when it comes out here. Whenever that may be. Oh, and great article Jessica. You made me really think, as you always do. 🙂

    Tyler

    October 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    • Thanks for your well considered comment Tyler. I’m glad you didn’t take it badly that I took inspiration from your tweet. I really don’t want to give you a public bashing, as I explained, just raise some questions and make people give it some thought. While you think twice before watching a film over YouTube I’m afraid the majority probably dosn’t give it a thought. And they wouldn’t go out of their way to later buy something that they’ve previously watched over YouTube.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

  6. Great post. I agree with Ryan and up there. And thanks for recommending the shorts. I’ll watch them in a few minutes. Here’s my recommendation: http://mrrumsey.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/short-film-mondays-the-lunch-date-by-adam-davidson/

    fernandorafael

    October 14, 2012 at 7:40 am

    • Thanks Fernando! And thank you for that recommendation! I hadn’t seen it before. It’s lovely!
      I’m really a fan of shorts. Watching it put me into the mood of the upcoming shortfilm festival in my city. 🙂

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      • You just changed my name, Jess 😉
        hahah
        anywho, glad you liked the short. It really is lovely. Loved “Validation”. Thanks for recommending it.

        fernandorafael

        October 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm

  7. I guess I’m illegal in all sorts of ways – I never pay for any of the movies I watch, haha.

    Alas, I do admit to watching films on YouTube. Especially if they’re older films. Most of the French New Wave films I watched in June were on YouTube. Same with the Anime films in July. It is a handy tool, because I’d never be able to find half of these DVDs. Mainly because my work doesn’t have them.

    I do draw the line at watching new films like Cosmopolis. I just feel guilty. Mind you, I *did* watch The Artist and A Separation on there, but I made a point of paying full price for them the day they came out on DVD. It just comes down to where I live. If there’s something I wanna see, then I will try my hardest to go and see it in cinema. If it turns up on YouTube, then I might be tempted, but usually I’ll just wait until the DVD. I think YouTube is a lot more “legit” than any of the other shady sites, so YouTube is my first port of call in that area.

    Stevee

    October 14, 2012 at 7:47 am

    • Well you’re a special case Stevee. I imagine that you might have a bit of influence on what you have in your store, so if you watch something over YouTube you could perhaps call it research, which can lead to that you talk your family company into including it in their assortment. Basically you’re a wayfinder! 🙂

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

  8. I admit I sometimes watch old and rare films from sources like YT because in some cases it’s the only way to ever see a certain film. I’d prefer not to though, and I never watch new releases that way. Not because I think it’s morally wrong, but because for me, watching an internet stream is like listening to a symphony over the telephone. You might be watching it but you don’t really get the proper experience out of it. Of course the time will come very soon when the quality of a digital copy/stream will be comparable to what’s projected in the cinema. Hopefully by then, the Hollywood business model will have adapted to embrace the technology instead of being wiped out by it.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    October 15, 2012 at 4:56 am

    • “Like listening to a symphony over the telephone”. That’s exactly how it is to me. Then neither my computer, nor my TV is anything special. Perhaps people with better equipment have a different experience.

      Films are at their best in theatres imho. Even when you’ve taken the popcorn plague into consideration.

      Jessica

      October 15, 2012 at 9:31 am

  9. I am pretty surprised by what can be found on youtube these days. Surely it is down to You Tube themselves to vet this stuff and make sure it is not an illegal strem, rather than the user watching them.

    One day we will look back at this and laugh

    • I think the blame is on both sides to be honest. Sure, YouTube should keep an eye at it, but in the end it’s the one who is breaking the copyright uploading new films to YouTube who is acting like a douchebag.

      Jessica

      October 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm

  10. For me it makes no difference if my moviewatching is “illegal” or legal. The only thing that matters is that it’s easy. I’ve had a Lovefilm-subscription and I own approx. 800 dvd’s. As I said, whatever is the easiest way for the moment.

    By watching movies the way the distributors wants us to is a perfect way of making nothing at all happen. They have to, as in any other business, adapt to what the customers want. If they would figure that out, instead of making moviewatching so difficult, everyone would be much more happy. And they’d earn more money, for sure.

    Pladd

    October 16, 2012 at 12:37 am

    • But to be a bit contrarian: is moviewatching the legal way all that difficult these days? While I understand the frustration of having to wait long for a new movie to arrive at Swedish cinemas, it isn’t as if there’s any lack of movies available to watch the legal way. Especially not with the new streaming services finally arriving at Sweden (just signed up for a free Netflix subscription for the rest of the year. :))

      To me legal and illegal does matter. If I want people to make good movies for me to enjoy it’s reasonable that they get paid some way or another, even if ever so little.

      Jessica

      October 16, 2012 at 7:35 am

      • No, it isn’t that hard. Not anymore. Just because of services of streaming sites for example. I tried Netflix yesterday and really got in to it.

        I also want my favorites to be paid and recognized, especially if they make small budget movies, but as I see it it’s not on my conscience if it’s hard for me to find their movies.

        But hopefully Netflix (or similar) will make a big difference in Sweden, like it has in many other countries.

        Pladd

        October 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

        • Netflix really seems excellent. They also have quite a few small budget indie style titles, which made me very happy.

          Jessica

          October 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm

  11. […] My Swedish friend Jessica poses an interesting question: Just how acceptable is it to spread the word of a film’s availability on YouTube? […]

  12. Have watched that movie where the guy talks with a younger version of himself, which was very nice to watch. As for the Kurt Kuenne one I have not seen it, but have reviewed this director fairly recently and he was proud that one of his movies on Youtube had more than 7 million views, so I guess it is completely ok to share that link.

    Nostra

    October 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    • Yeah, it seemed to be a safe one. And I really recommend it. It put a huge smile on my face.

      Jessica

      October 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

  13. I asked the exact same question on Roger Eberts’ newsletter I get each week (a bonus for donating a few dollars for their sites upkeep). They post youtube links to some older movies. This week it’s Nosferatu and Phantom of the Opera from 1922-1925. I suspect that those links aren’t all legal.

    Then again, I don’t feel sorry for downloading TV series. I don’t want to wait over two years until I can see a series. Broadcast them on the same day everywhere and I’ll be glad to watch them on TV.

    carrandas

    October 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    • I’m familliar of the frustration of having to wait for too long for things to turn up. We live in a world where the distances have shrunk. People are always in touch with each other, all over the world, wanting to take part of the same TV series at the same time. Hopefull they’ll get the idea within a not too distant future.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 9:28 am


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