The Gracie Breakdown Breaks Down
Yesterday, the Gracie Breakdown, a popular YouTube installment that features a step by step analysis of grappling techniques used in major mixed martial arts fights, went down. There was no error or glitch in the webhosting; the Gracie Breakdown was hit with a takedown notice from Zuffa that cited copyright infringement.
Was the Gracie Breakdown using copyrighted material? Well, yes, but legally. By showing brief clips of fights and then commenting on the action in those clips, the Gracie Breakdown’s use of copyrighted material was clearly covered under “Fair Use,” a set of laws that outlines the legal use of another individual’s or company’s intellectual property. According to a Stanford article on Fair Use, “If you are commenting upon or critiquing a copyrighted work--for instance, writing a book review -- fair use principles allow you to reproduce some of the work to achieve your purposes.”
This law is what allows book reviewers to quote passages from a book. It allows music teachers to share and analyze the composition of a chorus with their students. And it allows sportscasters to show highlights and to breakdown plays. This last example, if you’re playing along at home, very closely resembles the Gracie Breakdown use of Zuffa material. From a journalistic perspective, the Gracie Breakdown was actually helping to educate fans and was providing the sport with more depth.
Shortly after the videos were removed from YouTube, Rener Gracie tweeted, “@danawhite the Gracie Breakdowns were intended to educate#UFC fans. What can we do to make it work?”
Dana White responded, “@RenerGracie just landed in chicago. I just followed u. Dm me with ur number and let's talk.”
Not long after that exchange, the Gracie Breakdown videos reappeared, but the latest video seems to be missing the UFC footage that it had previously, which suggests that none of the future Gracie Breakdown videos will have it either. While seeing that the initial conflict has been resolved, resulting in the restoration of the YouTube channel, is a positive step, the denial of fair use rights through legal posturing and bullying is disheartening. Part of building your brand is allowing it to spread so that fans can make it their own. Squashing the sites and YouTube channels that your fans visit, out of a love and passion for the sport, will only hurt the sport.