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Master P's Theater

Local video editor Paul Proulx has built a following by paying homage to Hollywood's coolest directors. So why is YouTube all up in his grill?
By MIKE MILIARD  |  February 20, 2009

VIDEO: Proulx’s Paul Thomas Anderson montage

Splice and dice: The making of a montage. By Mike Miliard.
"It's quite simple, really," Dr. Branom tells Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange. "We're just going to show you some films." 

It's a phrase that could be on Paul Proulx's business card. Proulx's Stanley Kubrick tribute montage — which you can watch either muted on YouTube or with sound at Proulx's blog (more anon) is a mite easier on the pried-open glazzies than the quick-cut newsreel of 20th-century atrocities to which Alex is subjected, but it's just as arresting in its surge of imagery.

It's the little things: paranoid General Ripper from Dr. Strangelove sweating out his plan to nuke the Ruskies (thus stopping the sapping of our "precious bodily fluids") as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey intones that "this mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it," and while Handel's "Sarabande" from Barry Lyndon flits genteelly above. Or the marching of Barry Lyndon's redcoats and the grunts in Full Metal Jacket, matched to the chugging beat of Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" from Eyes Wide Shut.

Proulx's montages, posted under his nom de splice, barringer82, first at YouTube and now on his blog, are cleverly crafted, eye-popping showcases for the oeuvres of his favorite directors: Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, David Lynch.

They've earned him legions of admirers. Since 2007, Proulx has amassed more than 1000 subscribers on YouTube, who send him comment-thread hosannas — "I am addicted to your vids," "you have been one of my biggest influences" — like an audience tossing roses at a stage.

But in recent weeks, YouTube has steadily removed many of Proulx's videos for fear of corporate lawyers screaming "copyright violation." In January, the 25-year-old Marlborough native started noticing his montages disappearing from the site "roughly one a day for several weeks."

Some, Proulx suspects, were removed thanks to their violent or sexual content. But many more were yanked thanks to copyright claims. Still others have been "castrated" of their sound, he complains. That's thanks to the cessation this past month of a paid agreement, wherein Warner Music Group had allowed its artists, such as Chris Isaak, to appear on YouTube. And it's why, as with thousands of users' clips, Proulx's Kubrick montage was left up, but with the sound disabled. (A YouTube spokesperson didn't respond to a request for comment.)

Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, guesses the clips were culled thanks to YouTube's Content ID system, an automated filter that seeks "fingerprints" encoded onto copyrighted video or audio.

But he argues that, much like street artist Shepard Fairey's work does, clips like Proulx's fit the criteria for so-called fair use. Since they're both "transformative" and "non-commercial," since Proulx uses just "small clips of much larger works," and since his videos aren't infringing on copyright holders' market — to the contrary, they've sent me scurrying to my Netflix queue — fan-driven works like these are "definitely fair use."

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Related: Sound bites, Company man, Dirty politics, More more >
  Topics: Features , Internet, Internet Broadcasting, Science and Technology,  More more >
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