Copyright Trolls Get Videos Pulled For Using The Word ‘Pixels’

Copyright Trolls Get Videos Pulled For Using The Word ‘Pixels’
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The video “Pantone Pixels,” published in 2011, was an independent art project that used a swath of colours to illustrate a picture of the creator’s parents. Last week, Vimeo took it down. Turns out it was too similar to “Pixels,” a 2015 movie starring Adam Sandler.

A reasonable human being might wonder what a tiny art film might have to do with a giant Sandler catastrophe, but copyright trolls are not reasonable human beings. Last week, the anti-piracy firm Entura International, which frequently works with Pixels distributor Columbia Pictures, filed a big old DMCA complaint — as first reported by TorrentFreak — that goes after a bunch of videos not for pirating or violating copyright in any way, but for using the word “Pixels.”

The full complaint, which you can read here, asked Vimeo to pull down the following videos:

“Pixels”, “Pantone Pixels”, “Pixels”, “Pixels – HD Trailer”, “Detuned Pixels – Choco”, “Pixels – Life Buoy”, “Pixels: Redeye @ Kettering”, “Pixels Festival 2015”, “Love Pixels- VJLoops”, “Pixels Official Trailer (2015) – Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage”

Yep, they went so hard in the paint that they even got their own damn trailer for Pixels, which, it should be noted, is a garbage movie. This DMCA trolling also swayed Vimeo into removing several indie films including a Machinima video from 2010 and a 2006 video by an independent museum called NeMe.

The good news: Vimeo tells us they’re looking into this further, so hopefully they will restore everything within the next few days without holding any copyright strikes against the affected accounts.

“The videos were takedown in accordance with Vimeo’s DMCA policy,” a spokesperson for the video company told me in an email this afternoon. “However, Vimeo’s Trust & Safety team are further evaluating the claims made and will have an update in the coming days.”

You can reach the author of this post at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jasonschreier.


  • This is pure garbage trolling on behalf of pure garbage, and using garbage logic to pull it off. It’s garbo-ception.

    You can’t retroactively enforce your trademark on art which is several years old!

    It’s disgusting that such a bad film is having so much reach. Surely even Adam sandler wants this to die a quiet death.

    • Doesn’t registering the trademark give you rights over it even if someone used it before you and failed to register it?

      Although this instance is stupid as it’s a common word.

      • It’s a little complicated but yes, to some extent. Prior users can still use the term but only within their ‘region’. I’m not sure what level of granularity a region is considered to be in the US but it’s definitely smaller than national level, which is where copyright registration sits. I’m also not sure what region(s) something online like YouTube or Vimeo would constitute.

        That said, this instance is absolutely stupid. Names and titles can’t be copyrighted, only trademarked. DMCA is only for copyright infringement, it’s not to be used for trademark infringement claims. This nonsense is just straight up abuse of the system.

    • You can’t retroactively enforce your trademark on art which is several years old!
      Yes you can, Apple’s been doing it for years. And that’s the problem, the systems in place for Copyright and Trademarks are horribly broken, the issue isn’t really that companies are protecting their IP, it’s that a lot of Trademarks should never have been granted in the first place.

      Back when Zenimax was going after Mojang for using ‘Scrolls’ everyone was up in arms. However they (quite reasonably) pointed out that they had nothing against Mojang, but if they let it go, it sets up precedent for someone else to do a blatant infringement and potentially get away with it.

      Aside from that, this is probably just a kneejerk reaction to the executives realising how badly their Movie has tanked so they’re a) going on the offensive and, b) looking for anything to blame.

    • I could forgive the film for being a bad film (I’ll probably even still watch it one day), but “pixels” is hardly an original or exclusive word, and the fact that this movie as a whole rips of concepts that were far more interestingly and elegantly handled previously makes this particularly irritating.

  • Oh for fuck sake. Pixels is an English word you can’t possibly claim that as your’s fuck off.

    • I don’t really think it’s like that. The Edge thing made the mistake of going after somebody big enough to actually fight that bullshit (i.e. EA). Doesn’t sound like any of the affected parties here would have financial clout to go up against an organization as big as Columbia in court.

  • Gotta make their money back on the movie somehow, they certainly aren’t going to generate it from ticket sales

    • I don’t know, Adam Sandler is one of highest paid actors about. I don’t know why but he keeps pumping out movies so they have to be making money of they’d drop him.

      • Is Adam Sandler paid by other people or by himself though? Not actually sure so if you know, please correct me. He founded Happy Madison who are the producers of Pixels and pretty much all of his filmography and if he still works in some sort of management capacity it would stand that he pays himself off any profits from the movies release/dvd sales/merchandise etc.

        • I have no idea to be honest, I was just really surprised to see him up pretty high in a “highest paid actors list” last week. He’s even higher than Tom Cruise!

          Either way – he’s making heaps of profit on his movies so they are selling well or he is being paid well which means he’s movies are selling well.

          • His movies are fairly low-cost, and he scrapes up all the product placement payola he possibly can. So the box-office is pretty much all net profit.

          • I assume he only topped last year’s list thanks to a four-film deal he signed to create original content for Netflix.

      • Tax deduction??
        Board with swimming in money he already made??
        Possibly a little of both………

  • Stop trademarking words. We have reached saturation point! There can be no more trademarks [on legible words] that aren’t going to conflict with someone else shit!

    All you dickhead corporations, grow up!

  • Im off to kickstarter to make a movie called copyright violation…………..Then I will stop all the bogus copyright violations by claiming copyright on the words copyright violation…………its the only way to fix the problem.

  • While I can understand the basic idea behind the DMCA, surely there needs to be some kind of provision in there to impose some kind of penalty on spurious claims like this. Right now it seems anybody can just slap a DMCA complaint against pretty much anything and everything. If it’s upheld, great. If not then there’s no penalty against them. It seems like they can basically throw everything against the wall and hope something, ANYTHING sticks.

    • In theory, Entura/Columbia committed perjury by issuing an invalid takedown notice. However, I don’t think anyone has been prosecuted for perjury w.r.t. DMCA notices.

      Yes, the law is one sided. It was designed that way on the basis that it was too difficult for copyright holders to get infringing material taken down. It certainly helped them with that problem, but the penalties for its misuse should be a lot stronger.

      • I think the excuse at the moment is that these claims are made by broad-sweeping bots, and the ‘no harm no foul’ excuse is that the owner of the allegedly ‘infringing’ property can make an appeal, which – after review – will either have its claim removed, or they’ll duke it out in court. And no-one ever actually lets it get to court, instead they just let the damage be done.

        Especially when sites like YouTube impose their own, internal penalties for uploaders who are accused (not whose claims actually get upheld). And because that’s an internal policy, and there’s nothing forcing YouTube to let people have paid ads (it’s their house, they can pay who they want to), claims are being abused as a tool of intimidation and bullying.

        • Exactly why the DMCA is such a broken, dangerous law; because it changes the base presumption to one of guilt (the punishment precedes the judgement) instead of innocence. If they ever try to introduce something like that here, I’ll be fighting it tooth and nail.

          • It’s also why arrangements such as Nintendo’s Partnership Program shit me so much. YouTube and Nintendo have collaborated to make their own arrangement which eliminates the possibility of emergent media from being tested for Fair Use copyright protection in the courts (which I very firmly believe would see Let’s Play commentators afforded protections that rights-holders very much do not want them to know they have). It’s YouTube’s house, you’ll play by the unfair rules they come up with, or they’ll take their ball (or ad money) and go home.

  • Starting to wonder if I should go and copyright my own name just to make sure some corporation can’t force me to change it later.

      • You’ll be able to stop the cease and desist notices, after you trademark the term “Cease and Desist”. Go for it!

  • Copyright again shows off its stupidity by blocking not only the amazing video that inspired the awful movie (Pixels by Patrick Jean), but also blocking the trailer to the aforementioned movie.
    Good fucking job.

    • Yeah. Some sort of process that forces a human to have had a look at them at some point.
      No need to have companies like YouTube enforce them manually; they get way too many for YouTube to spend the expense on humans processing… but they could implement the same anti-bot policies for DMCA take-downs that they do for user-creation/posting/commenting.

      Captcha or something. “We’re sorry. Your DMCA claim cannot be processed until you prove you’re not a copyright troll bot.”

    • Vimeo and others are acting exactly the way the law encourages them to though. The way the DMCA is written, the hosting service has two options when they receive a takedown notice:

      1. take down the content and pass the the notice on to the user. If the user files a counter notice claiming there is no copyright infringement, they can put the content back up. In this case, the hosting service is immune to copyright infringement claims.

      2. refuse to act on the take down notice. In this case, the copyright holder can sue both the user and the hosting service for copyright infringement.

      So even if the takedown notice is dubious, the hosting provider is going to pick the option that exposes them to zero risk rather than the one that results in some risk (however low).

  • And this is why the DMCA needs to just be nuked from orbit and a new solution (Which can easily be nothing) found for enforcing legitimate copyright while preventing copywrong like what this article is about.

  • The trailers in the request were probably duplicates uploaded by people with nothing better to do than re-upload videos they pinched from official accounts.

    If YouTube removed every video clip fitting this description they would halve their video content overnight.

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