Apparently even Donald Trump is not immune to copyright takedowns. On Friday, the president tweeted a mocking video playing R.E.M.’s 'Everybody Hurts' over Democrats’ reaction to the State of the Union – originally created by some bloke using the pseudonym “Carpe Donktum” and best known for winning an Infowars meme contest. By early Saturday, CNBC reported, the video was taken down after R.E.M. publisher Universal Music Publishing Group, as well as bassist Mike Mills, complained.
Yes, that’s right. Trump and R.E.M. got in a fight and R.E.M. won.
— Mike Mills (@m_millsey) February 15, 2019
World Leader PRETEND!!! Congress, Media--ghost this faker!!! Love, R.E.M.
— R.E.M. HQ (@remhq) February 15, 2019
By late Friday, CNBC wrote, Twitter users attempting to play the clip saw a message stating: “This video has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder.” The tweet itself (which the president had pinned to the top of his feed) appears to have been deleted at some point thereafter.
As CNBC wrote, this is not the first time the president has had a dispute with a copyright holder – he’s previously had The Rolling Stones complain about his use of their music at campaign rallies, as well as ripped off Game of Thrones’s signature catchphrase (and font):
Trump has drawn criticism for using copyrighted content before: The Rolling Stones’ 'You Can’t Always Get What You Want' was often used at the end of Trump campaign rallies and has been used at Trump events since he became president. The band urged Trump to stop using the song, to no avail.
In November, Trump tweeted an image of himself featuring the text overlay “Sanctions are coming”, which HBO took as a clear reference to its 'Game of Thrones' series. HBO said at the time that they “would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes”, but the president’s tweet was not taken down.
Nor is this the first time the president has tweeted a video that the platform decided to take down. After Trump retweeted several anti-Muslim tweets from the fringe, far-right political organisation Britain First, Twitter suspended the group’s Twitter account, automatically removing the videos from the president’s feed. Facebook also took down a racist Trump campaign ad in late 2018.
'Carpe Donktum' responded on Twitter by complaining about platforms monetising or removing their content, as well as linking to another tweet that has also since been removed. They also tweeted another copy of the video.
Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Rawr Rawr Rawr.
Copyrighted material gets used all the Time on the internet. REM has monetized every video on YouTube where I use their music... This tweet will actually MAKE them money. As to Twitter... they can have all of the $0 I make on it.
— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) February 15, 2019
Twitter censoring you Mr. President? I got you fam. pic.twitter.com/jrrDBZRlCe
— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) February 16, 2019
While telling the president to shove it is all well and good, the proliferation of copyright takedown requests on major web platforms has become a bitter issue in recent years. Platforms have bent over backwards to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits, resulting in what critics say is significant overreach.
As BuzzFeed News recently reported, takedown demands can be used to remove embarrassing content, and a recent piece in the Verge highlighted how YouTube’s highly automated copyright claim system can be used to harass enemies or serve as a vehicle for extortion attempts. In many cases, platforms have opted to remove even content that falls under lawful, fair use categories rather than risk going to court.
Twitter, whose approach to content moderation is so muddled and vague that its CEO Jack Dorsey recently committed only to having a 'talk' if Trump ordered his followers to kill journalists, seemed to have no problem cutting through all the red tape to comply with a copyright takedown.
Update: 2/16/2019 at 11:00 p.m. GMT: The video is back, ladies and gentlemen, though this time dubbed over with 'God Bless the U.S.A.'
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2019
Featured image: Twitter (Consequence of Sound)