Hopefully you all got a chance to see the incredible "dark and gritty" Power/Rangers short film that its creator Joseph Kahn dropped on the Internet yesterday. If not, you might soon be out of luck. Saban Entertainment, which owns the rights to Power Rangers, did not appreciate this video love letter and is doing everything in their power to stop the Rangers short in its tracks. In doing so, the resultant controversy is bringing up important questions about copyright, fan-made films and content creator’s rights on video sharing platforms.
To be perfectly clear, there's been no talk from either side of this dispute on whether this will go to trial. However, trouble has certainly been brewing. And if it ever did reach a court, the case would set a precedent for any fan-made creative work in the future.
Since debuting on Vimeo and YouTube at midnight on Monday night, the R-rated Power/Rangers has gone viral. At the time this article went to press, the YouTube copy sat at more than 6.1 million views. Unfortunately, Vimeo has since taken down Kahn’s video because of a copyright infringement complaint filed against it by Saban. Kahn, who made the film with producer Adi Shankar and financed it himself, is miffed by the whole situation and is firing back. He’s been urging fans on Twitter to email Saban and tell them to "stop harassing" him, while lodging complaints against Vimeo.
The video platform emailed Kahn with a formal statement on how they must adhere to copyright complaints and act accordingly. In a series of tweets, he argued that Power/Rangers is a fan film and is therefore protected by his right to free speech and expression. It's also a parody, which typically falls under fair use protections. As he noted, all the footage in the short is original, he funded the entire project himself, and he’s making zero profit from it. He postulated, "Is it illegal to give pic I drew of a character on a napkin to someone for free? No."
Adi Shankar has been making fan films like this for quite some time. You’re probably familiar with the Venom short that starred True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, Venom: Truth In Journalism. He also created a Punisher short, subtitled Dirty Laundry, that featured Thomas Jane. But Power/Rangers is the first of his to cause a stir of this magnitude. The Rangers short featured an original cast, including James Van Der Beek and Katee Sackoff, and an original story line. What would happen if the Rangers grew up in a world split by a war between aliens and humans, and were suffering from PTSD? Watch the video while it’s still online.
Saban took issue with the short because they’re currently producing a new installment of the Power Rangers movie universe, but do they have a case? Deadline spoke with a top entertainment copyright attorney, who wished to remain nameless, about the issue.
The law is still flushing out what constitutes fair use. As Deadline notes, its verbage states that the distinction won’t always be clear. Though, whether something was created for profit or not plays a major part in coming to a conclusion. Kahn has said time and again that he is not receiving, nor will he ever receive, any money for the short. We'll have to wait to see if this escalates any further.