The site removed Planet of the Humans, a controversial new documentary about climate change, citing copyright claims

By Benjamin VanHoose
May 26, 2020 02:09 PM
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A controversial new environmental documentary executive produced by Michael Moore was removed from YouTube, sparking claims of censorship from the Oscar winner.

Helmed by first-time director Jeff Gibbs, Planet of the Humans covers how society has neglected to handle climate change and, according to a press release, is "guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way — before it’s too late."

The movie was released in full on YouTube on April 21, and has been viewed over 8.3 million times since its launch. The streaming platform has since pulled Planet of the Humans, citing a "copyright claim by a third party."

Responding to the removal, Moore and Gibbs both issued statements, claiming the move is an attempt to censor their storytelling freedoms.

"How quickly the values of an open society — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to be wrong (or right), vanish when some people’s sacred cows — or should I say, sacred solar panels — are challenged," wrote Moore, 66, on April 30.

Moore wrote that "certain leaders" who are "unhappy" about the movie's "revelations regarding how the fight against climate change has been co-opted by corporate interests" are trying to shut down the movie.

A spokesperson for YouTube said in a comment, "When we receive a valid legal notification regarding content that allegedly violates copyright, we are required by law to remove it. YouTube is not in a position to mediate copyright disputes - it is between the parties involved. If an uploader feels that their content is covered by a fair-use exception, they can file a counter notification."

From Left: Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs and producer Ozzie Zehner.

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The film allegedly includes footage used without the permission of the owner Toby Smith, who, according to The Guardian, filed a complaint to YouTube on May 23 after learning Planet of the Humans used 4 seconds of footage from his Rare Earthenware project.

"I went directly to YouTube rather than approaching the filmmakers because I wasn’t interested in negotiation," he told The Guardian. "I don’t support the documentary, I don’t agree with its message and I don’t like the misleading use of facts in its narrative."

The documentary has a large number of detractors, many of whom signed a letter calling for the "shockingly misleading and absurd" film's removal from YouTube.

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Gibbs — who previously co-produced several of Moore's major documentaries, including 2004's Fahrenheit 9/11 and 2002's Bowling for Columbine — released a statement backing up his research and reporting, claiming the industry was attempting to suppress the film.

"Any movement or organization that does not invite self-reflection and instead tries to choke it to death — like the eco-industrial complex is attempting to do to us — is doomed," he wrote last week. "Unfortunately the stakes are too high to let them get away with it."

The filmmakers have made the doc available to stream on Vimeo.