Gasland lawyers demand “proprietary” Q&A video be deleted
Go ahead and file this one in the “ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife” category.
Last week, well-known Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer showed up to a screening of Gasland in Chicago with a couple of straightforward questions for the film’s star, Josh Fox.
In particular, McAleer was interested in Josh’s take on the by-now famous scene in Gasland of Mike Markham lighting his faucet on fire – you remember the one, right? It’s the scene that enabled Fox to sell his film to HBO in the first place. But it’s also one that has been debunked – flatly and frequently – by regulators in Colorado. Heck, these guys even went so far as to issue an official document on official state letterhead tearing the film to shreds, citing Josh’s distorted representation of the Markham well as exhibit A.
So all McAleer wanted to know is whether Fox is aware of the substance of those rebuttals. Is aware that the vertical shaft of Markham’s water well “penetrated at least four different coal beds” before making contact with potable water. Is aware that a 1976 report from the Colorado Division of Water Resources cites “troublesome amounts” of “hydrogen sulfide, methane, iron, fluoride and sodium” in local water wells in this area, well before oil and gas development commenced. That kind of stuff.
Fox’s response? Sure, he’s aware of all that evidence – how can he not be? So why didn’t he include mention of it anywhere in his film? “I don’t care about the report from 1976,” Fox replied. “There are reports from 1936 that people say they can light their water on fire in New York State. But that [has] no bearing on this situation. At all.” According to Josh, the fact that methane was present in water long before oil and gas activity is “not relevant” to the question at hand.
Now comes the ironic part: Turns out that when McAleer filed the video of his exchange with Fox online, he included a couple seconds of footage from the film – specifically, that juicy scene of Mike Markham’s faucet. Well, you can probably guess what happened next: Josh Fox’s lawyers got in contact with McAleer to demand he take the video down immediately. Never mind the fact that the original McAleer video only included 26 seconds of footage from the film. Never mind that the use of such a short snippet is pretty clearly protected under U.S. “fair use” copyright law. Because the video makes Josh Fox looks bad, it had to come down. And down it came, at least for 48 hours. But guess what? It’s back – and available for your inspection right here (likely for a limited time only!)
Actually, the real irony here is two-fold: first, that Fox appears to fall prey to the same techniques that he himself employs to get folks to say things they might not otherwise want or mean to say on film; and second: that when push came to shove, Fox’s attorneys were forced to play the “It’s proprietary!” card in forcing McAleer to take down the video, albeit only temporarily. For anyone who’s followed the debate over fracturing solution disclosure, that’s some rich irony indeed. It may also be a little bit of hypocrisy, perhaps. But we’ll let you be the judge: