Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube Refuses “The Godfather” After All

If you’ve never seen “The Godfather,” you really ought to rethink your priorities. It’s as great as everyone says it is. And it features Al Pacino from a long time ago, before Al Pacino pretty much played Al Pacino caricatures. And Marlon Brando! And James Caan! And John Cazale! Etc.

In any case, your opportunity to watch “The Godfather” for free on YouTube is now over. For some reason, the movie popped up on the site yesterday, via a Sony Pictures UK channel. But after a flurry of press coverage about the movie, both the video and that Sony channel have now disappeared.

The YouTube error message where the Sony UK channel used to be may or may not be instructive: “This account has been suspended due to a violation of YouTube’s policy prohibiting content designed to impersonate another person or user.”

Did Sony UK actually have the right to put the movie up? The film, famously, is a Paramount production, though it’s possible the Viacom unit may have sold off international and/or streaming rights.

On one hand, earlier this afternoon, there were ads running alongside the movie, which would indicate that the film had been “claimed” by YouTube’s ContentID program, which allows content owners to yank down clips that shouldn’t be there and run ads against the ones it was okay with.

And it’s not completely unheard of for YouTube to feature free, full-length feature movies. But that’s often part of a promotion that YouTube would have signed off on and/or promoted itself. Two years ago, for instance, YouTube and Sony teamed up to dust off “Ghostbusters” and advertised the movie on the site’s home page.

On the other hand, the movie’s now gone. I have queries into YouTube and Sony.

In the meantime — seriously. Take the cannoli, and go rent “The Godfather.”

UPDATE: Sony says the account was indeed bogus. Here’s their statement:

On Wednesday, August 24 reports surfaced alleging that Sony Pictures UK had posted a copy of The Godfather movie to a YouTube account “SonyPicturesUK.” The YouTube handle in question is, in fact, not a Sony Pictures account and is in violation of Sony Pictures’ rights. Upon discovering the existence of this fraudulent account, Sony Pictures Entertainment worked with YouTube and the account was deactivated. Sony Pictures is investigating the violation.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald