There’s a good chance you’ve seen a video floating around Facebook, YouTube and Twitter recently of movie assassin John Wick taking out other assassins set to the backdrop of Michael Jackson.
There’s also a very good chance the one you’re watching has been stolen from its original creator Dean Wyatt — and he’s very aware of it.
Wyatt, who published the video back in January, isn’t a stranger to his work being lifted off of YouTube and spread around other sites. This has been happening to him since 2009, Wyatt told Polygon via email, and although it never gets easier to deal with, he’s learned to accept this is part of what making art is like in the age of the internet and social media.
“You know, it's only now [that] the whole ‘Who made this?’ way of stealing has become accepted by new consumers, which makes it much harder to take down,” Wyatt said.
The John Wick video he created is a perfect example of that. Since it was published on YouTube just over six months ago, Wyatt has seen about 12 different ripped off versions of the video, which is technically property of Thunder Road and Summit Entertainment, floating around various sites. It never gets easier, he admitted, but what bothers him the most is seeing people purposely disrespect the original video he made and, of course, profit off of it more than he ever did.
The first time he realized that his video had been lifted and repurposed for an audience under a completely different user was just five days after he published the original. His video caught the attention of multiple outlets, including Polygon, and that seemed to spark interest in the video.
“I found them as I would google ‘Michael Jackson John Wick' to see how the world was taking to the video,” Wyatt said. “I saw the most recent [one] on Twitter after someone tweeted me a link to it. My brother saw the previous two separately on his Facebook feed — one page had included the white text above and below, which is a personal pet peeve of mine.”
“That was the video that had two million views.”
As frustrating as it’s been, Wyatt said he knows that sites can’t do much about it. When this first started, Wyatt reached out multiple times to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to alert them to the fact that his videos were stolen and someone else was profiting off his work, but to no avail. Eventually, he realized, it was easier to just take the loss even though it was heartbreaking.
“I don't bother contacting pages anymore as they literally give no shits whatsoever,” Wyatt said. “Plus, most rarely check the page's inbox anyways so you're just left it the dark. I just take the blow and try to move on.”
In one last ditch attempt to get the video back, Wyatt said he reached out to the person on Twitter who re-uploaded his video, WeNotSocks, in an attempt to take the video down but never heard back.
“I've yet to have a response, but the video is still up,” Wyatt said.
Unfortunately, there’s not much Twitter can do. In 2015, Twitter unveiled its rules regarding copyright and sharing content on the platform. It reads as follows:
Our goal is to provide a service that allows you to discover and receive content from sources that interest you as well as to share your content with others. We respect the ownership of the content that users share and each user is responsible for the content he or she provides. Because of these principles, we do not actively monitor and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances described below.
While that was updated in 2016 to address censorship of some content, Twitter never addressed the re-sharing of other content from various users. Because Wyatt’s video began on YouTube, too, it gets even more complicated.
With nowhere left to turn, Wyatt said all he can do is keep moving forward and hoping that his audience builds overtime. In a landscape where art is stolen left and right, the only way to stay on top is to continue releasing the best original work.
“I'm currently working on a follow-up video,” Wyatt said. “It’s just as good and stupid.”
The original video can be seen above and on Wyatt’s YouTube channel. Polygon has reached out to Twitter and Facebook for more information about ownership of content and will update accordingly as we learn more.
Update: Following the publishing of this story, Twitter user WeNotSocks removed the video. In an email to Polygon, WeNotSocks said, “I wasn't aware of the creator reaching out to me and I do not know how to contact them but I have taken the video down.”