There was outrage on social media this week when a Twitter account which was being used to tweet the film Top Gun was suspended after the film studio complained it amounted to copyright infringement.
The account of user @555uhz was being used to tweet Top Gun frame by frame, with the user posting updates including captions at a rate of two per hour over a period of over a month. The majority of the film was still to be covered at the time of the account’s suspension. Over this period, the account had gained around 7000 followers and posted over 1,500 tweets.
Although the Twitter version was non-commercial and significantly edited, Paramount Pictures' lawyers stated that this retelling of the film breached its copyright.
In a letter to Twitter from Paramount’s lawyers dated 21 February, it was stated "No-one is authorised to copy, reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use Top Gun without the express written permission of Paramount. Notwithstanding this, it has come to our attention that a user of your website, @555uhz, is distributing the Top Gun film, frame by frame, via [Twitter]. We request that you immediately remove all the Top Gun images from this website relating to the @555uhz user account."
While the resulting reaction and subsequent suspension has been criticised on social media sites and deemed oppressive, the actions of @555uhz could indeed amount to copyright infringement.
In the UK under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, a person commits a primary act of copyright infringement by substantially reproducing a copyright work of another without authorisation. In relation to a film or broadcast, copying includes making a photograph of the whole or any substantial part of any image forming part of the film or broadcast, with the question of whether a “substantial part” has been copied being a question of fact in each case. One of the issues to be determined the relevant copyright work i.e. the individual frames or the film as a whole.
The tweets cannot have affected Paramount Pictures financially but its reaction should act as a warning to devoted film fans who may consider creating a similar dedication to their favourite film online. Equally it does seem like the viewer may lose a lot of the dramatic effect of the film (and many hours of their life) viewing a film in this way!