My boy Dan’s piece for the New York Times about old racist Warner Bros. cartoons.
Cartoons of a Racist Past Lurk on YouTube
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Among the millions of clips on the video-sharing Web site YouTube are 11 racially offensive Warner Brothers cartoons that have not been shown in an authorized release since 1968.
Some of the cartoons were removed on April 16. A message saying the cartoons were no longer available because of a copyright claim by Warner appeared in their place. By evening the messages disappeared, and some of the cartoons were back. Representatives for YouTube and Warner would not confirm whether the companies had tried to remove the cartoons.
Ricardo Reyes, a YouTube spokesman, said YouTube relies on copyright holders to identify infringing content and on users to flag offensive content. If people do not complain, videos remain, he said. Mr. Reyes said that copyright violations are removed “very quickly” once identified, but the problem “is that ownership is often tough to determine.” He said many users “unknowingly post because they don’t know the law.”
A representative for Warner wrote in an e-mail message that “Warner Brothers has rights to the titles” in question and that “we vigorously protect all our copyrights. We do not make distinctions based on content.”
The cartoons, known as the “Censored 11,” have been unavailable to the public for 40 years. Postings no longer appear if YouTube is searched for “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs,” a parody of “Snow White” and the most famous of the cartoons. But a search for “Coal Black” does find the cartoon.
These cartoons were controversial when first released; the N.A.A.C.P. unsuccessfully protested “Coal Black” before it was shown in 1943. Richard McIntire, the director of communications for the N.A.A.C.P., wrote in an e-mail message that “the cartoons are despicable. We encourage the films’ owners to maintain them as they are — that is, locked away in their vaults.”
WMAV01, a YouTube user who posted some of the cartoons and preferred not to give his name, wrote in an e-mail message that “these cartoons were never officially ‘banned’ by any law” and added that the cartoons had “historical value.” WMAV01 said the cartoons were available on Web sites like foundrymusic.com, which is run by “The Opie and Anthony Show,” a talk radio program.
The cartoons are also available on bootleg DVDs from Web sites like banned-cartoons.com, which sells a collection of 165 such cartoons. At least two of the shorts are available on unlicensed DVDs sold by third parties on Amazon.
Michael Barrier, author of four books on the history of animation and comics, said the cartoons should be “presented in an informed way for an intelligent, adult audience.” Mr. Barrier also said the Censored 11’s appearance on YouTube “shows that there is a demand, so the logical step would be to release them in a way that is profitable for you as a copyright holder.”
DANIEL E. SLOTNIK