Should a Video of VTech Shooter's Play be Online?
April 20, 2007 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Friends and I downloaded a copy of a play script written by the Virginia Tech shooter, filmed it, and posted it on youtube. I have since taken it down. How bad an idea was this (and some more specific questions inside)?

The video got about a thousand views today, at which point I received a message from a Geraldo show producer asking if we would do an interview. At that point, I made the video private.

1) There are a number of videos of other people reading the play online (although no one really acting it out with staging and props) like we had. Are the "too soon" jokes on Family Guy indicative that in our modern day world, performing a play written by a mass murder is not an extremely horrible thing to do?

2) There is obviously a chance that some people have downloaded the video off of youtube (I believe this can be done), and will be reposting it. Does anyone have experience going from video site to video site demanding they take down copyrighted material? With extreme vigilance, and only one or two copies that might have been downloaded, it is remotely possible to keep this offline from other sites?

3) I got a request from a Geraldo show producer to do an interview. If we write them declining the interview and asking them not to show the video on tv, are they likely to listen?

I would also appreciate general feedback on the wisdom of putting the video back online (and if this makes it through the anonymous process, then I guess it isn't too "chatty" a request). My guess is that tens/hundreds of thousands of people have already read some of the plays posted on aol or watched the videos he made, and I don't see what's wrong with providing those plays in video format, but I would like to hear if I'm way off on that one.

[I will be watching this thread, and if admins are available, I will email them updates to any questions raised.]
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What was your intent in acting out and filming the play? Do you think the script was worthy of the effort if he hadn't killed all those people? Seems to me like you were just trying to get a reaction and you got one.

Personally, I think it's bad taste. And unless you had some kind of positive intent in putting the films up, I would imagine that a Geraldo interview would not have made you look very good.
posted by gfrobe at 7:45 AM on April 20, 2007

Wow. Not looking to flame you or be unhelpful here, but I guess I'm just wondering -- why did you do it at all? Did you have a reason for doing this that you would consider right or good? Or are you just hoping that you were not actively wrong?

If, for instance, you think that there's a value to seeing and understanding the inner workings of a murderer in that way -- maybe I don't agree with you, but you at least have a reason.

But if you were just thinking, "Hey, I bet this would get me a lot of hits on YouTube," and didn't really give a thought to the implications of what you were doing -- then maybe you need to think a little harder about what you're doing before you try to profit from it.
posted by ourobouros at 7:46 AM on April 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Second, bad taste. Really bad taste.

But, you wanted attention from it, and now you got it. I say at least be consistent in your bad taste and repost the video and do the geraldo interview.

Maybe after that, you'll learn not to be such an attention-whore.
posted by milarepa at 7:48 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can only really answer the first part. Some people (maybe most people) are probably going to view this as really bad taste insensitive attention seeking. Whether or not it really is, depends on your motivation for doing it in the first place, and whether by filming it, you managed to add something meaningful to some pretty poor source material.
And on preview do not do the interview, because you really should not want to appear to profit from this.
posted by roofus at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2007

1. That's a judgement call--different people will have different opinions, obviously. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the victims' families and friends, and if that's too big to get your brain around, imagine that some kid or bunch of kids beat up you and your friends for no reason. Or drove around running over peoples' dogs and cats just because they could (incl yours). And on a slow news day, they got in the news for it. And then some other kids decided to make a youtube production of their crappy creative writing assignments for shits and giggles. IMHO, juvenile and in extremely poor taste to say the least.

2. It's been shown to be pretty easy to get YouTube videos taken down even if you're not the copyright holder. Other sites, YMMV.

3. Since you're probably unlikely to hire a lawyer to keep them from doing so, and they have several on hand even if you do, they can pretty much do whatever they want.

You don't need to measure your actions against the consciences of cartoons and the great unwashed. Develop some empathy and your own moral compass so you can stand by your actions no matter what the public reaction. If you're asking whether or not an awful lot of people (incl people you know whose opinions might matter to you) will think you're a bit sick for doing this, then the answer is yes--whether or not you were right or wrong or safely within what's generally considered acceptable black humor.
posted by Martin E. at 7:59 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I saw your production of Richard McBeef, and I would like to give you kudos on your acting chops, which was appropriate to the sheer ... badness of the material. I think the play would have been so bad it would have some entertainment value even without the recent events.

However, I could easily see how people would think that it is in poor taste, or believe that you are taking advantage of tragedy to gain fame. (And I can also understand people not wanting to give a mass murderer any more fame than he has already obtained).

I also think it's a good decision to decline the interview, given that they are not likely to portray you very sympathetically.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:59 AM on April 20, 2007

No. He doesn't need any more exposure. The media has given him enough already.

Why would you give him more? It's not news.
posted by distrakted at 8:01 AM on April 20, 2007

It's quite easy to download a youtube video: see, for example: Keepvid.

I have to agree that a Geraldo interview will probably not make you look good. He'll probably try to make you look like someone trying to profit off of other people's miseries. Many people would consider that ironic.

You weren't trying to make money off the video, that's a good thing. It can also be argued that what you did is not bad, and perhaps positive: There is a lot of talk now on identifying these problems and preventing future events like this from happening.
People can be told what characteristics to look out for, but that's probably not enough: you can't simply match words like "loner" or "social outcast" to a person to predict if they are potentially dangerous. However, human intuition is a powerful thing, and factors in many more things that the conscious mind. If someone sees a video of Cho's work, and sometime later sees someone else's work which gives them a gut feeling of his video, a possible threat is identified.
posted by newatom at 8:01 AM on April 20, 2007

To answer #1, I don't think it was an extremely horrible thing to do. Stupid, definitely. But I don't think it necessarily makes you an evil person. People might interpret it that way, however, especially because Cho wanted his ridiculous messages spread into the media. Basically, you've kind of done him a favor. But I doubt that was your intent.

People deal with tragic events in different ways, including trying to make light of them. I think it's even easier for people who are removed from the situation, who don't actually know anyone affected, to act as though this is just a story and not a real event that calls for sensitivity.

The plays were terrible, juvenile, irrational, and, honestly, they might have been worthy of some mockery if they had been made public under some other circumstances.

So, I don't think you're necessarily a terrible person - people do often find inappropriate things funny, and often get a thrill from doing things that seem risky or naughty. It seems like you & your friends did something on a whim without considering your motivation or the potential repercussions. I assume you must be pretty young, so just turn down any interviews, do your best to get the videos removed if you find it turning up anywhere, and try to turn this mistake into a lesson learned. Everyone does stupid shit sometimes, what matters is what you get out of your mistakes.
posted by tastybrains at 8:02 AM on April 20, 2007

I will go against the grain here.

My fiancee went to VT. I know at least one FOAF of hers died in the massacre. She's wearing her old VT tshirt to work today, inspite of the no-tshirts rule, because, to quote her, "fuck them".

And still... I personally would love to see your adaption. We both read his plays with rapt, morbid fascination. Psycho nutjobs are fascinating in their own trainwreck sort of way, and the pure *terrible* of his plays are, in a way, a bit of built-in gallows humor in this whole situation.

It's shaken me up more than I thought it would, but the thought of an ironic presentation of Richard McBeef makes me smile.

Everyone grieves and heals in his own way. Is it, perhaps, a bit insensitive, a bit "too soon"? Perhaps. Does it make you a bad person? No, not at all. Put it back online, I say. Hell, talk to Geraldo. Yes, he'll probably make you look like an insensitive asshat, but, really... so what? He's a washed-up loser, and most of his fans are meaningless.

Just be ready for some hate, as you've already seen here today.
posted by jammer at 8:04 AM on April 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

3. Do not go on Geraldo for any reason. Talk shows of these types are meat-grinders and I can guarantee you that you will be the meat for that show. You will be harrassed, hounded, lied to, you name it.

Don't do it.
posted by unixrat at 8:06 AM on April 20, 2007

It strikes me as being both extremely ghoulish and opportunistic on your part, and at the very best extremely ill-advised. At this present moment, I can't see what positive contribution this makes to our understanding of the tragedy (that this was a crummy play was already well-known in our 24-hour news cycle) or our recovery from it. So it appears that you are capitalizing on a major news story to grab some of the spotlight.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 8:07 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

To answer your FPP question, yes, bad taste. At this point, it's just too much too soon. It's only been five days. People aren't even buried yet and you're doing exactly what the killer wanted - giving credence to his thoughts and adding to the notoriety. I would not put it back online. I think it's perfectly understandable to say, "Look, I made this, I'm starting to regret it and took it down, please do not repost it out of respect for the victims." I would respond to Geraldo with the same sentiment and decline the interview.

(I don't think you're a bad person, however I do think you made a bad decision. Just deal with the consequences and learn from it.)
posted by ml98tu at 8:08 AM on April 20, 2007

This question is not unlike the puttingthegeniebackinthebottlefilter question we had from a friend of one of the Borat RV morons.

If you didn't already know your video was a pretty tacky move, you wouldn't be asking this question. At this point, you might as well ride it out to its inevitable conclusion.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:13 AM on April 20, 2007

I'd think there would be copyright issues with the play. Wouldn't his parents or someone inherit the copyright? Can you legally perform the play without their permission?

I know people are doing it anyway. I also think that understanding this guy's rage could be valuable. Also that it might be in bad taste to show this work so soon. But I wondered if anyone had thought of the copyright/intellectual property ownership aspects of this.

I'd love it if someone with a little more knowledge about this could respond.
posted by amtho at 8:18 AM on April 20, 2007

follow up from the OP

Although we touched on a number of points in discussing doing this and
putting it online, the most obvious one was that if we didn't do this,
then other people would, and could we do this "better" than others
would. By better, I mean more likely to make posting the video into a
positive experience. Below, is a copy of the message that ran at the
end of the video, and also a copy of the video info posted on the
youtube page, that I think provides more context in evaluating our

We put this movie online for a couple of reasons. Some of those
reasons are mentioned in the article from AOL news where I saw the
script for this play, which is linked to the right. Like many of the
people who have been reading the play online, we were curious about
what motivates someone to do such a terrible thing, and with so little
information available, we looked to his writings for any answers we
could find about the person responsible for the shooting. We have
placed this video online for others to view as they undergo their own
search for answers about how something like this could happen.

While it is hard to put such an unspeakable tragedy into words or
respond to it at this time, we hope that everyone hurt by this
catastrophe will eventually find some peace. We also recognize that
the shooter was almost certainly mentally ill and this incident was a
tragedy for him and his family as well.

The people behind this video are all intimately involved with college
life, and between us we have decades of experience as undergraduates
and at graduate school and as faculty or staff on a college campus.

Everyone involved with this video has given money to a charity
relevant to this tragedy, and we encourage people to consider making a
donation to a mental health organization or a crisis hot line or to
find a way to contribute to helping make it less likely that an event
like this will occur again. We would also encourage everyone who
views this video to familiarize themselves with the warning symptoms
that indicate someone is at risk for future violence or self harm and
learn about some of the ways to respond to a friend or family member
that might be in trouble. Links to more information are in the video
description to the right.

The people behind this video do not seek any publicity or profit, and
we condemn anyone who would use this tragedy for personal gain. We
ask that people do not repost this video anywhere else, unless they
include all of the information on the right so that people can be
further educated about these issues at the time they view the video.

We would ask that anyone viewing this video be sensitive of who you
might share it with.
Please consider making a donation to a charity in this time of
terrible tragedy. The scripts by the shooter can be seen here:

Crisis Hot Line: 1-800-273-TALK

Warning Signs for Violence or Self-Harm:

If anyone has any other information to share with students and the
friends and families of students, please comment and I will include it
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on April 20, 2007

1. Taste is relative. Screw the MeFis who are now admonishing you. (I don't think your a ghoul, but I doubt your production would be worth my time.)

However, using a lame cartoon to justify your actions is questionable. All manner of exploration of questionable subject matter can be pulled off successfully if you've got the brains to do so in a meaningful way and the testicular fortitude to stand by your work. (It sounds like you're lacking in the later given the fact that you're not shitting yourself over your creation.)

2. The internets. They bite you in the ass sometimes. You knew the risks of putting a video on YouTube. Or at least you do now. Chalk it up to a learning experience and pray the death threats you'll inevitably receive are hyperbole.

3. Geraldo is a dip shit surrounded by an army of people who are paid to lie to any smuck stupid enough to respond to their enquirers.
posted by wfrgms at 8:23 AM on April 20, 2007

Like collecting feathers that have blown about in the wind, once something is online, it is out there forever. If you want to stop this thing in it's tracks, your best bet is to lay low. Do not respond to the Geraldo show, do not post about the video on internet forums (so, this post was a bad idea), let the whole thing die.

That said, if you're going to do this for real, commit. Repost the video, go on Geraldo, talk about free speech and the power of art in healing, and whatever else you feel is important about this piece with conviction. A lot of people will find it in bad taste, but those are probably the same people listening to smooth jazz and keeping the WWE on the air, so I would question their taste to begin with. You've already begun, I say you mine as well finish what you've started.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:24 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll also go against general consensus in that I don't think it was a bad thing to do, or necessarily in "bad taste." Cries of "too soon" and such never really made much sense to me. When is it totally cool to make jokes about 9/11, or video games about Columbine, or stagings of terrible plays by mass murderers? Too soon for whom? People react to and cope with tragedy in different ways, so I don't see anything wrong with what you're doing. And I don't see how this is opportunistic, either. You put it on YouTube, you're not selling it on DVD. It's certainly far less opportunistic than the douchelords at all the news stations, selling advertising spots by the assload. They are the opportunistic fucks. And as to "this is exactly what the killer wanted"... well, fuck him. Who gives a shit what he wanted or didn't want? The guy is plastered all over the news, the guy's name will be recording in history books. He's accomplished what he wanted, and fuck him for it. He's dead, we're not. There's no point in thinking about that; instead we have to do whatever we need in order to move on. If for you and your friends, that's putting on a production of these shitty, shitty plays, go for it.

With all that said, I would advise you to keep it offline. It's already spreading around the tubes, I'm sure, but there's no point in helping it. You will get hammered by people. I would only be mildly surprised if someone tries to sue you for making this (not that they would have a chance in hell of winning, but hey, people are opportunistic). There will be lots of people who get extremely pissed, and while that isn't your problem, in the sense that you're not the shooter and you didn't cause the tragedy, unless you are ready to deal with their anger, I'd not advertise the performance.

Similarly, I would advise very strongly against going on Geraldo. He will be trying to make you look like a total fuckface. That's his job, he's an asshole. Now, while it would be wonderful if you could go on his show and point out his hypocrisy and make *him* look stupid, unless you think you have the chops to compete on national TV (which you probably don't, because unlike Geraldo you don't live your life on TV), I would not go on the show. It could lead to very bad repercussions in your life; I'm talking losing friends, losing your job, etc.
posted by papakwanz at 8:25 AM on April 20, 2007

Err, to me you sound like exactly the kind of person who deserves to go on Geraldo. I say do it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:42 AM on April 20, 2007

I have serious theater students and this was the first thing they considered after it had been posted. They had a really high concept idea of doing it to be a commentary on the dissemination of information in the modern world, view the shallowness of Cho's thought, explore the one-dimensional characters he created, etc.

They were of the mind that doing a play would be no worse than what NBC/Smoking Gun has done by posting the play, and they could actually do some good by exploring what the killings meant and how they touched people in a way less sentimental than lighting candles or joining a Facebook group.

It was not done, after one reading, on the grounds that (1) you would get many knee jerk reactions of how horrible it is even to do the work, (2) many theater companies would try it sooner or later and would be doing it for macabre intentions and/or for the fame and they did not want to be seen as doing this, (3) negative publicity such as the Geraldo thing you mention. They decided to wait six months and let the media chill on this and if they still found it important and worthy they would do it.

I would advise you to lay low, decline any media interviews and retain a lawyer if you see the video popping up on any mainstream sites/tv shows. It is your IP (arguably it is whoever holds Cho's rights to it, I doubt they would enforce it) and any recreations would be illegal, or at least in the gray area of legality that a C&D should get it taken down.

I doubt you'll have it propagating, due to the nature of self-propagating videos are usually nothing like this. I think you have nothing to worry about if you just lay low for awhile.
posted by geoff. at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Your project has all the earmarks of something that a real avant garde artist could pull off, but they would have the chops to know when, where and how to do it. Unless you're prepared to discuss your art and its place in this culture in a menaningful way, what you did was a kneejerk stunt with absolutely zero creativity and very little merit. Don't broadcast that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:51 AM on April 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, that was a bad idea.

Re TV shows: Geraldo, O'Reilly etc will almost certainly not cover stories involving non-famous people (like you) if the non-famous person refuses to participate. The standard "O'Reilly beats up on some guy" slot requires the presence of the guy. Without the guy, the presenter risks having viewers think that the absent participant is being unfairly treated. Of course, the people who do choose to participate get unfairly treated too, but it's less painfully obvious.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:53 AM on April 20, 2007

[To clarify, I'd recommend not responding rather than responding with a 'no'.]
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:57 AM on April 20, 2007

Some students at a local university did a performance of the play live on radio last night at about 9 or 10 p.m., I'm not sure there was much fallout from it.
posted by dead_ at 9:07 AM on April 20, 2007

amtho is absolutely right. The play is still copyrighted, and you infringed that copyright by performing it and putting it online without permission of the copyright holder.

I say this not because I think you're likely to actually be sued over it (The Smoking Gun also infringed copyright, presuming they didn't have permission to post the play, and I haven't heard of any negative consequences, or even a cease-and-desist, to them), but to point out that from a moral perspective, you don't have much authority to demand copies of your video be taken down on the basis of your copyright when the video itself is a result of your own copyright infringement. (Although you might, legally.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:13 AM on April 20, 2007

Pathetic. Truly pathetic. Your 'followup' sounds about as sincere as a back peddling press release.

Please, go on Geraldo. As ridiculous a "journalist" as he is, I think he's gonna hand you your head.
posted by dobbs at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2007

I wouldn't contact Geraldo at all. He's sleazy, and you'll regret it.

There wasn't anything at all wrong with creating the video, though. It doesn't matter if some dead guy would've wanted you to do if he weren't dead--he is dead, and he doesn't want anything. Anyway, who cares what he might've wanted.

It's not your responsibility to look after the emotional wellbeing of the victims' families or anyone else. You weren't mocking the victims in any sense, or condoning the killer's actions, so you're there's no reasonable grounds for offense. If people didn't want to see the production, they could've simply not watched it.

Finally, it's not your responsibility to have some profound, pretentious artistic message. You could make the video for any reason you want, or no reason.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

DevilsAdvocate, copyright is a purely legal idea. One doesn't need any moral justification whatsoever to exercise one's exclusive rights under a copyright.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:29 AM on April 20, 2007

Whatever the intent, it was a bad idea to put it online. People could have already "further understood the tragedy" by just reading the play. If he sent a video manifesto directly to the NBC, he clearly wanted to develop a cult of personality for his violent ideas and actions in this twisted way. Making an easily-digestible YouTube version of the play wouldn't seem to help anything, from my perspective. Even if you intend the play as insight, people will probably misinterpret the intent en masse, and a majority will almost certainly find it in bad taste, however it's presented. The image of the video would/will probably overtake the actual content or intent. That happens a lot these days.

As for the video spreading, being downloaded, being reposted, as people have said, there are a number of websites and utilities that can download video from YouTube, as well as media players that can play the files (including in media-friendly fullscreen modes) and programs that convert the Flash video files into more easily compatible formats like mpeg or avi. From what I understand, there are even utilities available that can put a video from YouTube on an iPod with facility.

Can you ask YouTube to have the video taken down if reposted? I guess. Can you stop blogs and other websites from uploading the downloaded video to their own webspace and embedding it in blog posts, given how popular, how searchable, and how viral (non-Ask Metafilter, Digg, etc.) individual blog posts can become? Not a chance. You could argue that given the policies of YouTube, it's technically still your property, having taken it down, but it would take you an awful lot of time and effort to argue that. Regardless of legality, on a practical basis, if you post something online, assume that it's going to be part of an informal public domain, and unless there's nothing notable about it, it can and might be spread.

Do also note that TV news shows air a lot of footage from the internet lately. Do you think that the Daily Show or Countdown on MSNBC really had to seek approval from the original creator of the footage every time they broadcast YouTube footage of the waterskiing squirrel every time they make a "slow news day" joke? I don't know if their producers/editors are savvy enough to be downloading the footage and using software players for something that's been taken down, but they probably have a young intern or two who is.

I don't think that that's necessarily true that they wouldn't beat up on you on Geraldo without you there. Plenty of the talking heads can be riled-up and sanctimonious about someone without them actually appearing on the show. They might even say you "lack courage" for not appearing - remember how the Fox anchors talked when Clinton and Obama said they wouldn't appear on debates this fall on the channel? But if you want to minimize getting verbally beaten up on national TV if you're unsure enough that you should've even uploaded it in the first place, don't respond to the offer, don't repost it, do the best you can to disappear, and avoid publicity, and you and your reputation will probably be better off for it. A public image of "wanted attention and gave further publicity to this sick man but quickly thought better of it" is better than "wanted attention and gave further publicity to this sick man."
posted by stleric at 9:40 AM on April 20, 2007

Your 'followup' sounds about as sincere as a back peddling press release.

You realise that most of that was posted with the original video, right?

nthing the disappear advice - it doesn't matter to Geraldo if you were right or wrong to do it, he just wants some action for his show.
posted by muteh at 9:43 AM on April 20, 2007

(Speaking of spreading, I will note - there are loads of (text) news stories online that would seem to mention your video already.)
posted by stleric at 9:45 AM on April 20, 2007

It's already been covered at the Chicago Tribune.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:48 AM on April 20, 2007

Here's a quote from the article, specific to this video:

"Another "Richard McBeef" video begins with a title card that reads in part: "We posted this film to highlight and investigate issues connected with the tragic events at Virginia Tech." The text accompanying the video also linked to several charities.

In that video, three costumed men act out the play, barely keeping straight faces."
posted by MeetMegan at 9:53 AM on April 20, 2007

If it's only been viewed a thousand times or so, I's assume the likelihood it's been downloaded by someone is low. The likelihood that that person(s) would then repost it themselves is even lower. Than again if Geraldo sawit, who know who else. Geraldo himself may repost it.
posted by yeti at 9:55 AM on April 20, 2007

You realise that most of that was posted with the original video, right?

Yeah, that's why I put followup in quotes. It's like people who precede racist comments with "I'm not a racist, but..."
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on April 20, 2007

On [Not] Preview: Nevermind. Seems like it may have drawn enough interest so that others may have grabbed it. Also, forgive my spellings above.
posted by yeti at 9:57 AM on April 20, 2007

As stleric and MeetMegan pointed out, pretty soon you will have all of the fame you can handle. You will be held up in various media outlets as a moron, an attention-seeker or someone that just does things without thinking (pick one).

I have no doubt you will regret posting this video as you are simultaneously reviled and ridiculed by just about anyone that hears about it. If you wanted to be an attention-seeker then you have certainly achieved that result. Did you not stop for a second and imagine how disrespectful this was to the deceased students, faculty members and their families? The funerals have not even taken place yet, and your are (in effect) idolizing their killer by giving him even more publicity.

My vote goes to you just being a moron and I for one would love to see Geraldo (a person I cannot stand) rip you a new a-hole.
posted by worker_bee at 10:02 AM on April 20, 2007

1. Not an extremely horrible thing, of itself, but you shouldn't be surprised to be vilified for it -- that was easy enough to predict.

2. Almost certainly not possible. The genie is out of the bottle. You can play whack-a-mole and search every day and ask people to take it down and maybe, if you're lucky, make it just enough harder to find that most people give up before finding it... but, in all likelihood, it's out there.

3. So far as I know, the Geraldo show would be in violation of copyright to broadcast the video without the permissions of its creators. Let's see, that would be a group of video-makers whom I'm willing to guess didn't explicitly assign who owned the copyright to the adaptation, and who were violating the copyright on the work of a deceased resident alien, whose rights, I presume, passed on to his next of kin, probably his parents, who are probably also resident aliens -- I haven't seen any coverage of this. IANAL, but it wouldn't shock me if the network was willing to play the odds on the situation being too confused for them to be sued over broadcasting it (or, rather, to count on the inevitable out-of-court settlement to be cheaper than the money they make from the show.)

Your refusal to be on the show probably alters that equation in your favor -- witness all the people here eager to see Geraldo rip you a new one. Without the promise of that in the promo, they wouldn't have nearly the draw.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:16 AM on April 20, 2007

I don't know that I'd call it a bad thing in and of itself, just... pointless.

I'm sitting here in a burgundy t-shirt not because I personally feel there's any real value to all of us wearing the school colors today but because it apparently makes some people feel better. Since it costs me nothing, why not?

I look at your staging this play more or less the same way. It has a side effect of making some quantity of people who feel passionately about it feel bad. What do you get in exchange for that? I just don't see the payoff.

From the sound of it, now that you have done it, you don't either. So walk away. If it resurfaces and you're confronted about it just answer honestly that you thought it had some value when you did it and you later decided it didn't. You can be contrite without groveling or even necessarily understanding what exactly upset other people.
posted by phearlez at 10:20 AM on April 20, 2007

Why not go on Geraldo? You already have the media spotlight, why not use it? You can be a voice of reason, a voice saying "let's all be more caring toward one another. Let's pay attention to cries for help," or something.

I've had about 20 seconds of media training for my job. It all comes down to -- say what you want to say, and do not say anything else. When Geraldo says "OMG what would your poor old grandmother think if she knew you filmed yourself saying these nasty things?" you say, "Ha ha. Well, my grandmother probably would not like the language in the script. But I think she would agree with my original motivation, which was _____." Maybe I'm being naive about Geraldo's power to rattle people, but if you believe you can keep your cool, then make your publicity work toward whatever goal you want to achieve.

If it were me, I'd just make sure that my heart was in the right place before going ahead. Is the message is something core about being human or living a good life, and not some superficial political bickering? Is your message one your old grandma (or the housewives watching Geraldo) would relate to?
posted by salvia at 10:38 AM on April 20, 2007

One doesn't need any moral justification whatsoever to exercise one's exclusive rights under a copyright.

Quite true. However, one's own respect, or lack thereof, for copyright might well affect how others respond to requests related to one's own copyright.

If I have, either inadvertently or deliberately, posted something copyrighted by you without your permission, and you email me, saying, "please take it down; I hold the copyright," and I know you to be a person who is generally respectful of copyright yourself, I might simply take it down.

If I've posted something by you, and you email me, but I know you to be a person who ignores copyright in your postings whenever it suits you, I might well respond, "Screw you buddy! I'm leaving it up." Then you'd have to go and get a lawyer, and sue me, and eventually I'd be forced to take it down.

Your legal claim and legal right is equally strong in both cases; the ultimate outcome is the same in both cases; but the latter will be a lot more hassle, and possibly expense, for you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:41 AM on April 20, 2007

Okay, so just now reading that Chicago Tribune article, the question really is less about whether Geraldo would tromp you and more about what whether there's any way to defend what some will perceive to be laughing at his pain or others'. What about:
1. My friends and I were confused and shocked, and this was how we tried to understand what happened.
2. Yes, we were laughing. Sad as his thinking is, it's also absurd when you're in the middle of it and trying to be the way he thought people were. Sometimes you just laugh at how horrible something is.
3. But it taught us a couple things, and those are .... That's why we included a link to a charity. We all should care more about the people around us and notice their cries for help. Etc.
posted by salvia at 10:53 AM on April 20, 2007

I'm guessing if Geraldo is doing a show on this, he's probably going to have some people who were there on the show. And if you're sitting next to them, you're going to look like dicks, no matter what you say. Something to think about.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mmmm, yeah, good point.
posted by salvia at 11:05 AM on April 20, 2007

Anonymous asked me to post the following update:

There was never any question about doing the Geraldo interview. We are absolutely not doing it. I'm sorry the original post was unclear. Our only question is if they are likely to play the video without us on the show, and if we requested them not to play it, if they would listen. We think the video speaks for itself, and having clips played on Geraldo show complete with people condemning it would color peoples view of the video.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:16 AM on April 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Keepvid and similar sites will allow the deleted videos to be downloaded, but I believe this can only be done within a certain time frame. Speaking from my experience, I tried to download a deleted video, and it seems that its place in the video repository had been taken by some guy talking about his pet cat.

As for how long that time frame is, I'm not sure.
posted by Xere at 1:38 PM on April 20, 2007

There are a lot of things that you could be making a statement about at this point, having to do with the shootings. Producing the killer's play and sharing it with the world, and in so doing glorifying that person's work, is probably not the most interesting, creative or sensitive thing you could have chosen.

Here's a thought: is this typical? The Columbine kids, other folks who did heinous things of this nature -- were artistic works that hinted at their inner demons produced by them as well? I'd be much more interested at this stage in seeing a documentary exploring that question than seeing a killer's play enacted on YouTube while people are still so deeply grieving (and while so much media attention is focused on extending and heightening this tragedy for ratings, as the contact about the interview suggests.)

In short: take the high road here, you'll be a better person for it. Or even better: have the people who were killed ever written plays? Have you even thought about that? Perhaps there was a tremendous talent in one of these people that deserves to be glorified far more than that of the killer.
posted by davejay at 3:36 PM on April 20, 2007

I don't think it's E.V.I.L. They're still publishing Mein Kampf, aren't they? Great. Last I heard, Hitler's death tally was (Holocaust deniers aside) was still about 187,500 times more than the VA Tech guy. You can buy Chuck Manson's CDs and Gacy's paintings.

Now, was it a particularly smart idea to do so? No. Not in the slightest. Unless you had taken precautions to film the entire thing with all of the actors wearing shapeless, baggy outfits and various masks, then uploaded it from some anonymous locale, be prepared for this to follow you for a while. is for life.

If you want to spin doctor this properly, go for the interview, state that you're going to film all of his stuff, put out a DVD, and then send the profits to a VA Tech memorial scholarship/fund/whatever.

I believe that the cat is out of the bag, the horse has left the barn, some other domesticated mammal has irretrievably escaped its confinement - it will get played, so maybe Geraldo is your only chance to present your side of the story. Then again, that's what every sucker who has ever gone on one of those shows has thought to himself - "I'm smart, I can beat this interviewer."

Good luck. Let us know how it turns out. These days, nobody is content to let art speak for itself, so who knows what will be read into this?
posted by adipocere at 3:55 PM on April 20, 2007

I cannot believe that so many have posted saying they want to see anonymous go on Geraldo just to see him or her get "ripped a new one," humiliated, slandered, or otherwise embarrassed. Promoting this seems contrary to the spirit of the AskMe community. Yes, what anonymous did was in many ways tactless and insensitive, and the poster has acknowledged that. But people need to stop projecting their outrage.

On the actual topic of the questions, I don't think you or your friends are horrible people for doing this. It is perhaps questionable judgment to have put it up on YouTube so quickly, but the actual performance of the play doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Depending on how it was presented, I could see it as mocking and attempting to emasculate the playwright, simply by showing how absurdly bad the writing is. Given what we know of him at this point, there would be a sense of taking the piss out of someone who perceived himself in such a twisted way, but that aspect of it is still a bit mean-spirited.

Geraldo's show shouldn't play the video without your consent, but given all the web videos that pop up on television every day, who knows what sense of ownership they'll take regarding yours. If it does become more visible in the media, I imagine you'll have the opportunity to explain your thinking in a more suitable and respectable venue.
posted by kyleg at 4:21 PM on April 20, 2007

I don't see what's wrong with providing those plays in video format

If there had previously existed some video footage of a performance of the play, then I would agree that there's nothing wrong with disseminating that footage, and that it shouldn't be suppressed.

But that's not quite what happened in this case. Immediately after some guy killed a bunch of people, you decided to learn the dialogue he had written (well, I'm not sure whether or not you were off book), perform it, and film the performance. Do you not see the diffference?

This is not a freedom-of-information issue, this is a what-were-you-smoking issue.

That said, I'm sad to report that I've read worse plays. By non-psychopaths.
posted by staggernation at 4:49 PM on April 20, 2007

Regarding number 3: I've worked in TV and have some experience with copyright issues such as this. The short answer is that they could use little snippets without your permission or clearance (think 8-10 seconds). As long as it's "newsworthy" and contains their commentary, it would likely fall under "fair use."

That being said, TV producers and media companies tend to be anal about clearances, so my best guess is that they probably wouldn't use it without your signature. You never know, advice is to politely decline the interview and let them know that you are not interested in being on television.
posted by dhammond at 7:59 PM on April 20, 2007

One more thing (and this is important): if you decline, PUT IT IN WRITING IN AN EMAIL. It will make them infinitely more wary to "fair use" you once you've explicitly told them no.
posted by dhammond at 8:02 PM on April 20, 2007

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