Escape From Machinima (Part 2)
Hey everyone, this is a post I wasn’t sure if I was going to make, but I’ve decided to risk it as I still keep getting questions from viewers. They were dying down for a while, but recently I was informed that Machinima.com has been using some of the old Civil Protection footage in their official Xbox One App, and this testimony has stirred things up again, so that’s sparked a lot more questions at me. So I want to clear up, hopefully once and for all, everything that went down between Machinima.com and myself last year.
THE STORY SO FAR
I’m still not at liberty to reveal everything that’s happened, but what I mentioned in my last Escape From Machinima post is only a portion of it. To do a quick recap on that, Machinima.com attempted to change their contract terms with me, stalled me for months after my pay dropped about 80%, until I eventually quit after seeing their new contract offer, which had terms in it I could never agree to. I thought that would be the end of the story when I wrote that post, but nope, it kept going.
After I left Machinima and planned to start distributing my videos on Blip.tv in addition to Youtube, I decided to check out of curiosity if anyone had put any duplicates up of my videos on there. It turns out someone HAD, Machinima.com’s Blip.tv channel had been uploading copies of my videos there. While them publishing my videos elsewhere was allowed based on my contract terms, Machinima.com never informed me they were doing this, never gave me any statistics on views for blip.tv (and still haven’t), and never paid me anything for views on Blip.tv, but they WERE collecting advertising revenue on them, for years. All in all, at least 15 of my videos were posted from periods ranging from early 2010 to late 2011 and were up on blip.tv’s channel under Machinima’s name and they were collecting income on it without paying me up through 2013. Without revealing anything that’s in it, I can say that this activity was a clear, repeated violation of my contract with Machinima, and in the event something like this happened, most of the rights on many of my videos would return to me. To make matters worse, this was actually on top of violations I discovered earlier in the year where Machinima simply never paid me for two videos dating back from 2009 and 2010. At the time, I passed that off as an oversight, but since the blip.tv violations appeared much more deliberate, it made me start doubting that.
STAY QUIET AND BURY EVIDENCE
After discovering all this, I contacted Machinima.com, informing them of what I discovered and expressed that since their actions repeatedly violated my contract, I was claiming the rights back on my videos. My message was relayed to their legal department, but I didn’t get any answer for weeks from them, despite my messaging Machinima every few days trying to get some sort of update. During this time however, my videos on blip.tv, then later ALL of their videos on blip.tv were taken down (more on this later).
In June, I was finally given a response from the legal department, which claimed Machinima.com owned all my videos under the US Copyright Act based on a contract from 2011. The problem with this response was I NEVER SIGNED a contract with them from 2011. In fact, I specifically rejected their new contract offer from 2011 because I felt it would take many of my rights away. My contract with them was from 2009 and had some rights protections written into it. I informed them of this, then after a few more emails, their legal department asserted that they did indeed own the rights to my videos based on my 2007 contract. They might have had a valid point, except my 2009 completely replaced my 2007 one. After some more emails, I confirmed that they had actually lost the signed 2009 contract entirely. By their request, I then sent them an unsigned copy of my 2009 contract that I had on hand. At which point, they still did not change their claims about owning all my videos, nor did they address my questions concerning their breach of my contract. They DID ask if I had a signed copy I could produce for them, even though they had (or used to have) the only one in existence.
At this point, I was incredibly frustrated and discouraged with how the situation was being handled and I decided to get some legal assistance. I received a few replies and one fan in particular was able to provide an invaluable amount of pro bono assistance for me. I ended up sending a 15 page letter to Machinima detailing everything that had happened to me from them and stated that I would be pursuing legal action against them if my rights weren’t restored. I am not at liberty to discuss what happened afterward, but I will say I can live with the outcome. I’ve more or less been avoiding any involvement with Machinima.com since.
After all this went down, I was also contacted by NPR as they were doing a piece on Machinima.com. I gave them a 20 minute interview about it, they used one isolated sentence from it, but that’s the nature of modern media. Also their statement about my situation with Machinima.com isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s close enough for anyone who’s not a lawyer. But hey, I got to be on the radio!
Back to the Blip.tv thing, that’s worth discussing a little further, because that didn’t just affect me. Machinima.com uploaded thousands of videos to their blip.tv channel from around 2010-2011, maybe late 2009 and early 2012, I don’t remember. I can’t fact check any of the dates, since they took down all the videos they had on blip.tv after I brought it to their attention. I am assuming this is because I’m not the only one they did not pay for this. I still have no way of verifying how much money was due, as I was never given any statistics regarding the views on blip.tv. However, I was able to create a screenshot cache of the majority of videos they did have on their channel before they took it down which I am including below:
Many of these videos I know were published on different contract terms than mine, so every video on that list is not necessarily a violation of Machinima.com’s contract with their creators. However, I’ve confirmed that a few directors have told me that some other videos listed above were a violation of their contract, similar to mine. I would not be surprised at all if Machinima.com performed hundreds of violations this way, withholding money from dozens of directors. These directors still may not have been paid, I have no way of knowing. If you or someone you know were a machinima director between 2010 and 2011 and submitted content to Machinima.com, I encourage you to look through the list of videos provided in that link. If your content is in there, Machinima.com may owe you some money. If you’ve already been paid for these videos, you have me to thank for that. If you haven’t, it’s worth asking about. Honestly, this particular item strikes me as potential lawsuit material, although I have no desire to get involved with that unless I have no other choice as those are time consuming and expensive. Even for the situation with my own videos, I always viewed a lawsuit as an absolute last resort. Not because I lacked evidence, but because of all the time, work, and money involved. I’m actually not a vindictive person by nature, but when my back is against the wall, I’ll of course fight for my own survival and videos.
I’ve seen debates from people for and against Machinima.com as a business before and some misinformation spread around as well. I can not speak for how Machinima.com conducts business as a whole, since I’m not privy to that information, I can only attest to my personal experience with them; and in my experience with them over this past year, they have outright lied to me on occasion, they withheld a substantial amount of money from me, they violated my contract numerous times over a period of years, they made false claims of ownership over the rights to my videos, and they did not honor protections in my contract until after I stated I would take legal action against them if necessary. There are a few other things I’m not at liberty to discuss, but as a whole, I personally consider this all highly unethical. I don’t see any way to defend those actions from an ethical perspective. In the last post I made on this topic, I said I wanted to see Machinima off as friends. After what happened since, I think that’s no longer possible. I still will assert that there are a few good individual people who work at the company (one of whom has since been laid off by them), but none of them made the decisions that affected me in such negative ways this past year. I really just want the company out of my life permanently and hope I never have to deal with them again.
TO OTHER DIRECTORS
My personal advice to anyone considering joining them is don’t do it. Based on my experience with them this past year, it’s hard for me to imagine any other network conducting business in a worse way than they did with me. I encourage people to send this post to anyone you see who tries to defend Machinima.com’s way of business. I’ve seen the argument many times that creators “should have read the contract,” well, my retort to that is it doesn’t MATTER if you read the contract if the party who wrote it refuses to honor the terms listed in it. If you personally are having difficulty with the company, my advice to you is to seek some sort of legal aid. I feel in my case, my situation would never have been resolved satisfactorily without the legal assistance I received. I would NOT advise trying to reason with the company yourself if they are acting in a manner that seems unfair to you. It is difficult for me to imagine anything working in your favor that way.
Anyway, this post wasn’t especially funny, sorry about that. It’s hard for me to come up with wise-ass comments when there’s a possible threat of legal action against me if my jokes are a little too good. So what I’ve written above isn’t a joke, this all happened like I described it. In all honesty, it’s probably a stupid idea for me to make this post since I have no way of knowing how or if Machinima.com will react to this, but what I’ve said here is the truth and remaining silent about it while I see their actions continue to affect other people has been like a weight I’ve been carrying around inside me for a while now. It’s been downright cathartic being able to type this. Again, I hope this is where it ends and is the last post I end up making on the topic.
More videos without any legal drama coming soon!
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Machinima.com tried to claim all of Ross’s videos based on a contract he never signed. They also lost his signed contract. They also withheld money from him, over a period of years. Machinima has withheld money from other directors, and maybe still is withholding. Machinima breached and did not honor parts of their contract with Ross. Ross was on NPR. Machinima.com is not Ross’s favorite company in the world.