Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fair Use and the attempt to copyright bodily movement...

Fair Use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law. In fact, it is what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright." Center for Social Media

I just got an email from one of my online research assistants regarding a Kata Dante video placed online at by a guy in Norway. It was online from last week until the Fall River, Grandmaster, William Aguiar III, 10th dan in the Black Dragon Fighting Society, claimed copyright infringement and Youtube chose to remove it. Now this is getting ridiculous and borders on censorship due to what is really unnecessary harassment.

I was warned by one of Aguiar’s supporters to stay away from Ashida Kim. Ashida Kim is vilified and hated by The Fall River crew. Ashida Kim is a martial arts hustler in the classic sense. He is good at what he does from what I have observed in the DVD I received from one of my online research assistants in Florida. I have never seen anything from Mr. Aguiar, not a picture, not a QuickTime video. In over a year of my research I have heard nothing but claims of hatred of Ashida Kim, when I look closely at him. I rather like the guy. He has found his way. His way is not my way, but I admire what he has accomplished as a marketing person. He remains, “The most well known and hated martial artist on the internet.” This appeals greatly to my twisted sense of humour.

I did contact Ashida Kim because he became part of the story as soon as they warned me against him. I had to see why. Kim made no exaggerated claims and did not want to be interviewed as he says he spent very little time with Count Dante. He met him at seminars. Kim never mentioned the Fall River guys and I did not ask. I was interested in knowing if he had ever met or worked out with Dante and he answered honestly it appears.

All this pisses me off because the study of Kata Dante by some kid in Norway actually pays tribute to the memory and legacy of John Keehan/Count Dante. This is like Dexter King having his father Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech removed for various elementary school websites and charging thousands of dollars for licensing for them to keep it. At least Dexter is a legal heir with very clear rights to those materials however misguided his actions are.

On the other hand, Mr. Aguiar is neither related nor heir of John Keehan also known as “Count Dante.” Nor have I seen evidence of any legal rights to his estate or image granted in order to copyright and trademark the Dante Style, book, image, etc.

When I started my research and visited their bulletin board one of the participants, a Gabriel Mambe, questioned their claim to copyright and trademark by referring to an article from Official Karate, 1976. This was an article he found on their site. He quoted Crista Dante.

'You see,' Crista interrupted, 'the reason he did that was because he wanted to make sure that if anything happened to him, everything would be turned over to me. As a matter of fact, his will, I think , was made out two months before (his death). The only will. Everything now is in my name. We changed the whole corporate structure. He was the president, I was the vice president, but he owned all the corporate stock. About two months before his death, we changed all the papers; I was the president and he changed all the stock to my name.'

Nowhere have I ever read nor have they claimed that Crista Dante transferred or granted them her right and ownership by will or license.

I want to deal with facts. Soon after Mr. Mambe’s message that article was removed. I was quite puzzled by that.

I have John Keehan’s Book. The Aguiar World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets is not the book written by John Keehan, It is altered and edited to make a Fall River version of an item that had most likely fallen into Public domain.

World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets by John T. Keehan, alias Count Dante was published in 1967 and would have fallen into public domain after 25 years in my understanding. That would be why they could not extend the copyright of the original Dante book. They would have had to altered it into something else. They removed pictures of Doug Dwyer and replaced them with pictures of someone else. The book retains none of the style and presentation of the original.

I have asked several times for copies of the images they claim ownership of and have been in touch with their lawyer. To date I have seen nothing.

All of the research I have done has been in Chicago and people have been glad to share with me their memories in thought and images. They will be compensated for anything that is used in the film. It will not be much, but I am obligated to compensate them for the courtesy of allowing me to use those materials. I am extremely grateful to the martial arts community in Chicago for opening up and telling me the stories of those early days of martial arts. I was lucky enough to start with Ken Knudson(peace be upon him) and he reopened those doors I exited for a career in photography 30 years before.

I am no mighty black belt, I am no tough guy. I am not looking for a fight. I am a filmmaker trying to reconcile memory of a time past, experiences and mysteries concerning a man I barely knew. I am looking for as much unbridled truth as I can handle.

This is all good background for the film. It is giving me direction and approach, helping me to establish some dramatic arcs for the documentary.

I would like to be everyone’s friend. But after 50 years living you face the harsh cold realities that a lot of people really don’t want friendship.

I just want to make the best film I can. Make a film that the martial artists I knew then and have met from those days will be proud to have participated in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the videoclip of Kata Dante: We had the clip on our website, but we never put it out on Some other guy in Norway did that, without our knowledge.

We contacted YouTube and asked them to remove the clip as it was put there without our knowledge and approval. So they did. A while after we also removed the clip from our website, since Kata Dante obviously creates a lot of tension and crazy discussions on the internet, and we are not interested in participating in such a "war". Kata Dante is ONLY a form, nothing else, why all this fuzz about it? Seems like a lot of people is putting a lot of energy into something that is really not that big deal. We have bigger problems on this earth, than dicussing how "bad" the Kata Dante form is.

I never knew about Aguiar claming copyright for the form, not until I saw it here. Is it possible to copyright a kata? We practiced the form once in a while, learned from a video, but it was never our intention to violate some copyrighted material (if that is so...).

Anyway, all links of the form has been removed, so peace should now be restored.