Over a year ago, I posted a rant on why the Nostalgia Critic sucks, focusing on his bad comedy and negative attitude towards the work he "reviews." Doug Walker, mediocre improv actor became an "internet household name" (whatever that is) by mocking movies that by and large are more entertaining than anything he does.
Another name we've mentioned several times on the domain is Tommy Wiseau, the American filmmaker who wrote, produced, directed, and starred in The Room, a crowning work in the field of bad movie achievement. We here at YSM still haven't reviewed the film, in part because it's such a difficult work to evaluate in anything approaching an objective manner. I can say without exaggeration that I have personally seen The Room a dozen times, and each time I find it absolutely hysterical, but it's difficult to express that in words and pithy captions.
Doug Walker apparently felt no such difficulty reviewing The Room a week ago, although to pad his review out to an excruciating 30 minutes, he included more of his mediocre improv background, dressing up as Christopher Lloyd and showing footage from the film Back to the Future. I just hope he remembered not to digitally add Crispin Glover. The review includes a good 15 minutes of video/audio from the film, in addition to a full summary of the plot.
The review was pulled from Nostalgia Critic's site following a complaint from Wiseau's people, a "John" from The Room asked for the review to be pulled, citing copyright violation. In a completely not-surprising show of immaturity, Walker responded by putting up a tasteless improv sketch, taking central attention to provide "John's" e-mail address. Walker lampoons Wiseau and John, and, as himself, points out that fair use protects his review and he is actually trying to help the film. The result of this, not surprisingly, was Nostalgia Critic's borderline autistic fanbase sending literally dozens of harassing e-mails, getting Wiseau's Wikipedia entry locked, and spamming several fake Facebook accounts and fake Twitters, most of them telling Wiseau that he needs to learn to take a joke.
Not surprisingly, there's a little more to the story. First, there is no "John." It's just Tommy under an alias. A recent Harper's Magazine article references a mysterious "John" that contacted the article's author with messages showing a minimal grasp of English: "Does your peace is for print or/and on line viewing?" When confronted about the identity of "John," Tommy, being his typically evasive self answered only that "He's doing... freelance. He has limited hours," and laughed.
Second, Walker's legal position isn't as strong as he seems to think: by showing significant portions of unedited copyrighted material for his own use, Walker has put himself in a pretty tenuous position: it's what got him kicked off of YouTube in the first place. A fair-minded article on the fair use debate argued that while it was probably stupid of Wiseau to pull the review, Walker's position isn't exactly iron clad:
...[T]here are several strikes against Walker. First, his review was not short by any stretch. It was almost half an hour-long and included 19 minutes of footage from “The Room” (about 20% of the film), though some of that was replaying the same clips repeatedly and much of it with Walker’s voice over.
Also, though attribution is not necessarily a requirement of fair use, the title card on this work did not mention who owns “The Room”, which is out of step for Walker’s usual practice. Also, the review did cover the plot of the film from beginning to end, making it a pretty thorough summary of the film.Far from being an irrefutable defense to copyright infringement, fair use in America is not a particularly strong right. There's a reason the folks at Rifftrax don't just release a copy of the films they parody but an alternate audio track: even though they are substantially transforming the work by completely replacing the audio, the video they'd be using is entirely someone else's material. This is also part of why the MST3K box sets are so goddamn expensive.
The internet has managed to come up with a small amount of intelligent discourse on the debate at the Rifftrax forum, which also features some hilarious "but but but... fair use!" that's pretty par for the course when it comes to any issue like this.
I'm not exactly objective on this one but I can't say I blame Wiseau too much for getting the review pulled, especially since he's shown he's willing to do a lot to promote the work, and had Walker actually asked permission for use of Wiseau's copyrighted material he may have received it. Instead, Walker throws a temper tantrum in the form of an unfunny sketch where he plays the reasonable, intelligent victim, as well as Wiseau and the fictitious "John," played as a money-eating sycophant. Walker clearly doesn't have a particularly strong grasp of copyright law and how weak his position is, nor do his fans (hilariously, some of his fans wanted Walker to sue Wiseau somehow, for... God only knows). The terrible quality of this video is exhibit #1000 that Walker uses bad movies as a crutch because independently he's just an awful entertainer:
The most-liked comment on this unofficial YouTube version is as hilariously ignorant as you'd expect:
If I could, I would kiss Doug for this. This is exactly what those copyright nazi's are like.A combination of total ignorance of the legal theories behind YouTube's actions with a love of "monkey cheese" humor.
This whole damn vid, I was both laughing, and yelling 'THANK YOU! THANK YOU! FUCK YEAH!" So yes, thanks Doug for not only letting your fans know wtf is going on, but also ripping those copyright nazi fuckers a new one. Btw the random "Poodles" was hilarious