Filmmaker Threatening Legal Action Over Use Of Occupy Wall Street Footage


When the filmmakers behind 99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film were raising money for their project last fall, they framed their project as an experiment in collective creation that mirrored their subject. As they wrote on their Kickstarter page, “In a process that mirrors the OWS movement itself, 60+ award-winning filmmakers & artists are making a film about it. Together.”

Since then, the film has raised more than $20,000 on Kickstarter and won a development grant from the Sundance Institute. But the full extent of the filmmakers’ commitment to the radical collectivism of Occupy Wall Street is being challenged by another filmmaker, who has used snippets of their footage in his own work without their permission and is refusing their requests to remove it.

Jordan Boschman, a graduate student and filmmaker affiliated with the Occupy Vancouver encampment, incorporated several seconds of footage from the film’s trailer (embedded above) into a pair of videos he assembled from online footage as promotion and outreach for the Occupy movement in advance of the March 17 and September 17 days of action.

When the 99 Percent Film’s producer Audrey Ewell (whose previous work includes the Norwegian black metal documentary Until the Light Takes Us) learned of the Boschman’s use of the footage, she sent him an email pointing out his use of “exclusive footage.”

“Not only is this problematic in that it hurts our film when people use our footage,” she told Boschman, “but several of the shooters are opposed to their footage being used in this way.” She gave Boschman three days to take the footage down.

For Boschman, the request ran counter to the entire ethos of Occupy Wall Street, in which creative output is shared and built upon in a spirit of collaboration and support of the movement.

“That which is produced of the movement, socially belongs collectively to the movement,” he wrote back, “Whether it was made for or by the movement or not. The lack of permission request was not meant as an inconsiderate snub, but a conscious enactment of the principled cultural production model established by Occupy, which I feel also must be defended.”

He made a case to Ewell that his use of her film’s footage legally constituted “fair use,” and was exempt from her assertion of copyright. She threatened to involve her legal team, writing “I’m not interested in your creative commons B.S.” Boschman responded by posting their correspondence online and soliciting others’ opinions on the disagreement.

Ewell didn’t respond to requests for comment before this post went up. (We’ll update it if she does.) But she has responded on Twitter to criticisms of her position, though, saying “I’m an independent filmmaker: I’m not part of Occupy nor have I ever said I was. It is my job to protect this film, & the people in it,” adding, “If someone says ‘don’t use my work, I didn’t give you permission’ – end of story. Respect them.”

And that’s where things stand at the moment. Ewell’s deadline for Boschman to take down his films or edit out the footage from the 99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film has come and gone, and he hasn’t done so. As of yesterday, Boschman hadn’t heard from any lawyers.

“My preference at this stage,” he told the Voice. “would be for this to be where this ends. Everything’s just dropped, made the “non-thing” it deserves to be from the legal perspective.”

We’ll let you know how the situation resolves.