RPGFilms was a website that hosted tons of machinima videos made with video-game engines. One popular machinima genre is the music video, in which a machinima artist synchs action recorded from a game to a piece of popular music. Now the Recording Industry Association of America has had RPGFlims shut down because they argue that these "songs files" (not MP3s you understand, but humorous videos made by fans who in no way substitute for purchasing the songs) infringe their members' copyrights. Under the US fair use doctrine, a court can find a use fair if it can be shown that the use doesn't interfere with the rightsholder's income. I think that's pretty clearly the case here: no one who downloads a machinima video of a bunch of Wookies getting down to "Surfin' Bird" is going to say, "Well, hell, now that I've got this, no need to buy the CD." The use of music in fan-films can only be beneficial to the rightsholder's interests, and permitting that use can only be beneficial to society. Watching the RIAA commit slow, spectacular suicide by taking down the fan art that celebrates, advertises and raises awareness of its members' products, well, it's flabbergasting. What a bunch of tools.Instead of admiring their own Long Tail, RIAA appear to be cutting their's off! (And, yes, I do think I'm using the overused term Long Tail correctly, because I would concur with Cory that fans who watch a good Machinima clip which features a back-catalogue song may very well end up going out and buying that song once it gets stuck in their head.)
Update: Thinking Machinima has some solid further thinking about the shutdown:
While I don't agree with the RIAA here (obviously), a move like this should encourage us to work with smaller artists who are willing to license their music and/or work with Machinima filmmakers. I worked with MTV on getting clearance with Hollywood Records/Breaking Benjamin for Still Seeing Breen, and it was a ton of leg work (I didn't even do the work myself, and I know how much work it was).Update 2: RIAA claims that the takedown notice was forged and they've not started action against RPGFilms. Something very odd is going on there ...
To that, working with lesser known musicians will help each other ten-fold. Newer musicians can gain additional exposure, and Machinima filmmakers will face smaller risk. Additionally, reconstructed IP licensing will also be a big help - Creative Commons, anyone?
Update 3: More from Thinking Machinima, after investigating and listening to the site owner of RPGFilms, " it's sounding less likely that this was some sort of hoax. "