Film site Indiewire has an investigation into doings this month on the treasure trove of audio and video known as Ubuweb. Ubu went dark in early October, with only a vague notice that the site had been hacked. The hacking prompted a lively discussion over digital rights, most notably on the Frameworks listserv, which then prompted this response from Kenneth Goldsmith:

We know that UbuWeb is not very good. In terms of films, the selection is random and the quality is often poor. The accompanying text to the films can be crummy, mostly poached from whatever is available around the net. So are the films: they are mostly grabbed from private closed file-sharing communities and made available for the public, hence the often lousy quality of the films. It could be done much better.

Yet, in terms of how we've gone about building the archive, if we had to ask for permission, we wouldn't exist . . .

puts all of this in the context of Hollywood and digital rights:

Just this month, a heated debate flared up on the avant-garde listserv Frameworks about the merits of UbuWeb, a website containing hundreds of experimental works, including streaming videos of many films unavailable anywhere else. Since launching in 1996, UbuWeb (usually just called Ubu) has gained prominence in academic circles for making certain rarities easily accessible. However, the site freely posts materials without always seeking the permission of its owners, and though it removes videos upon request, some people deem the entire operation illegitimate. One Frameworks contributor called Ubu’s modus operandi “disrespectful”; others eloquently rose to its defense . . .

The micro-feud surrounding Ubu sits on a vastly different plane from the piracy issues plaguing Hollywood. Yet the dialogue showcases a continual unease throughout every facet of the industry about the availability of movies on the Internet, particularly when they cost nothing. With piracy more popular than ever, many insiders have begun expressing a growing fear that the movie business will face the bleak fate that met the recording industry of America, which lost millions of dollars while vainly attempting to clamp down on illegal downloads by suing fans. Avant-garde filmmakers usually don’t have millions of dollars at stake, which is partly why sites like UbuWeb have managed to flourish. None of that placates a seasoned distributor like Doros. “We don’t have the resources to combat illegal sites,” he said. “When it’s on our level, individual filmmakers and producers get hurt.”

Wonder what the poets think.

Originally Published: October 29th, 2010