An idiot at Universal claimed to own a government documentary


There’s a short documentary called “Your Life Work: The Librarian,” which was part of a series of career-guidance films published by the US government. This one is copyrighted 1946, but like most US government publications, it was released into the public domain.

I’ve seen it; it’s a little cringey, but I find a lot of old government documentaries cringey. It’s the narration, I think. That, and the acting. And the writing. And the fact that it came from a source I distrust, so I keep looking for the hook.

Other people have found it more to their liking, including Michael Sauers, a Nebraska librarian and writer who reposted it on his YouTube channel, and Emilio Estevez, who put a clip from it in his recent movie The Public.

In case the headline didn’t give away where this is going:

Earlier this month, the film got an actual theatrical release, and apparently Universal Pictures does what all the big Hollywood Studios do: upload all the content to YouTube’s ContentID tool…

And ContentID followed Universal’s instructions and took down Sauers’ video. Universal had no legal right and less than no ethical right to do so…

But what the fuck does Universal Pictures care about pesky little things like the public domain and librarians’ YouTube accounts? It’s a big important Hollywood studio, and if it stomps out public domain material and ends up giving strikes to actual librarians, well, it’s all good because it must “stop piracy.”

The video is back up (as of this afternoon) after Universal released their claim. So we can add this one to the list of times social-media noise got asshats to back down, right under the time NBC claimed to own a video game soundtrack

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