BY SAM GUTELLE
Yesterday, we shared Power/Rangers, a short film that provides a dark re-imagining of its titular franchise. According to director Joseph Kahn, if this concept interests you, you should watch the film now, because he has “no idea how long it’ll be up.” Kahn and his team are in the midst of a legal kerfuffle with Haim Saban, who owns the rights to the Power Rangers franchise.
Power/Rangers, which stars James van der Beek and Katee Sackhoff, arrived on producer Adi Shankar’s YouTube channel at midnight on Feb. 24. In the first 36 hours after its release, it drew more than 6.5 million views, with bloggers and Redditors alike taking a shine to it.
As soon as Power/Rangers soared up the YouTube charts, its legal troubles began. On Twitter, Kahn claimed that Saban, who is producing a film version of Power Rangers alongside Lionsgate, has been “harassing” him about potential copyright infringement.
In addition, the NSFW Vimeo version of the video has been taken down, with a representative for the online video platform writing that “the DMCA law does not give content hosts (like Vimeo) permission to disregard a takedown notice simply because of the presence of one or more fair use factors. This is a legal matter between the copyright holder and the video creator.”
Kahn responded to that takedown with a series of tweets laying out his own opinions on the matter:
1. @vimeo Everyone is noticing you took down the short but youtube didn't. Tons of fan films exist online. Free speech/fair use.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
2. @vimeo Every image in POWER/RANGERS is original footage. Nothing was pre-existing. There is no copyrighted footage in the short.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
3. @vimeo I am not making any money on it and I refuse to accept any from anyone. It was not even kickstarted, I paid for it myself.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
4. @vimeo This was made to be given away for free. It is just as if I drew a pic of Power Rangers on a napkin and I gave it to my friend.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
5. @vimeo Is it illegal to give pic I drew of a character on a napkin to someone for free? No. The world is watching your actions right now.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
6. @vimeo If you are going to brand yourself as a place for filmmakers and shorts, then protect. Otherwise, we all go elsewhere. Soon.— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) February 24, 2015
Power/Rangers is a part of Shankar’s Bootleg Universe of fan films based on pop culture franchises. In explaining his creative process, Kahn–whose other directorial credits include Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” video–told Deadline he “just wanted to make Power Rangers good for once.”
The legal space occupied by online, independent fan films is a hotly contested topic. Rights holders like Warner Bros and Mojang have struck down high-profile fan films based on their respective properties, with the potential for monetary gain often serving as a critical issue. In this case, since Kahn has said he doesn’t plan to profit from his work, he may be able to turn back Saban’s complaints, but for now, you should probably give the undeniably entertaining Power/Rangers another watch while you still can.
Screengrab via Adi Shankar/YouTube