A Netflix documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never Happened about the failed Fyre Music Festival is facing a third copyright infringement claim in the US after using footage filmed at the event by a festival goer without his permission.

The claim, brought by a man called Austin Mills against Netflix and the companies that made the programme, relates to footage Mr Mills filmed in The Bahamas in 2017 and uploaded onto YouTube.

Fyre Festival was advertised as a glamorous party on a deserted island.  Its marketing material featured famous social media influencers including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, tickets cost up to $100,000 and guests were promised luxury accommodation and “the best in food, art, music and adventure” in the Bahamas.  Ultimately the event was cancelled and many ticket holders were left stranded at the unfinished site.

According to documents filed with the US District Court in California, the makers of FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened initially sought to license the material from Mr Mills but decided to use it without his permission after a licence was not agreed.  The claim alleges the defendants used clips depicting “the poor conditions of the festival during the much-anticipated portion of the film showing people arriving at the festival and discovering the dire reality of the situation as well as footage of the festival organizer addressing the distressed attendees.”

The case follows two similar claims that have been brought against the programme makers this year.  The first claim reportedly settled in June.

Programme-makers often seek to use ‘user-generated footage’, filmed on mobile devices and posted online, within documentaries and other factual programmes.  Licensing such material can be challenging, often because it is difficult to trace the copyright owner, or because the owner makes unacceptable demands.  Whilst it is unclear what defences to copyright infringement might be available to Netflix and the makers of this documentary, programme-makers often decide to use such material without the copyright owner’s consent, instead relying on ‘fair dealing’ defences in the UK – most commonly in this context, fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review and/or fair dealing with a quotation – and the ‘fair use’ doctrine in the US.

Both fair dealing and fair use laws can be very useful for content creators as they allow the use of other people’s copyright material without permission, and even where consent has been expressly refused, provided the use is fair and complies with the defences’ particular requirements.  Abbas Media Law are experts in all aspects of copyright law as it applies to the production and broadcast of television, film and other content, including fair dealing.  For advice, please contact info@abbasmedialaw.com

, ,