Thanks to its multi-Emmy Award-nominated Fyre Festival documentary, Netflix and its production partner Jerry Media – the latter of which was also responsible for all of the (undisclosed) social media marketing for the widely-covered 2017 event – are on the receiving end of a copyright infringement suit for allegedly stealing videos from an unaffiliated filmmaker and using them in their highly-watched and wildly-controversial Fyre documentary.
According to the complaint that counsel for Nicole Pinedo filed in a New York federal court on Monday, Netflix and Jerry Media made use of three of her videos for its film, which documents the “luxurious” music festival that was set to take place during two consecutive weekends in April and May 2017 on the Bahamian island of Fyre Cay, and for which eager festival-goers shelled out between $1,500 and $250,000 for tickets, only to be faced with sparse, partially constructed tent accommodations; little food; and no music entertainment at all.
Videos taken by Pinedo – a Washington, DC-based filmmaker and production company head – provide a peek at some of the activities of the festival’s two founders, businessman and serial scammer Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, leading up to what was supposed to be a more upscale and exclusive take on the annual Coachella Music Festival. One of Pinedo’s copyright-protected videos depicts Ja Rule, Pinedo alleges in her complaint. Another was taken at “a holiday party [for] Magnises,” the now-defunct credit card company that McFarland founded in 2013, and the third featured footage from “a Magnises launch party” in Washington, D.C.
The problem with the fact that her videos appear in the Netflix documentary? Neither the media-services company nor Jerry Media – the media company founded by @FuckJerry Instagram star Elliot Tebele – licensed them from her or received her “permission or consent” to use them in the film, thereby giving rise to claims of copyright infringement.
With this in mind, Pinedo is seeking injunctive relief, which would immediately and permanently bar the defendants from making use of the videos (i.e., they would have to edit the film to remove the content for which Pinedo is the copyright holder), and monetary damages, including “actual damages and the defendants’ profits, gains or advantages of any kind attributable to [their] infringement of [Pinedo’s] videos,” plus punitive damages.
And this is far from the first bit of controversy surrounding the Netflix film. Pinedo’s lawsuit comes just one month after Netflix and Jerry Media agreed to settle a separate copyright infringement lawsuit, in which Fyre Fest-goer Clarissa Cardenas alleged that the two companies used one of her original videos from the failed music fest in its video without bothering to ask her permission.
Beyond the copyright infringement claims, the Netflix film has been the subject of criticism since it first debuted, in large part because of the role of Jerry Media and Tebele, who has faced backlash for building a multi-million dollar Instagram-based business by posting others’ intellectual property, including original imagery, videos, tweets, and memes, without authorization.
What was not immediately clear upon release of the Netflix film, according to LA Magazine, is that Jerry Media “isn’t just a producer of and participant in the film,” as well as the orchestrator of all of the media aimed at promoting the doomed festival, it was the one that “approached Vice with the idea of a Fyre Fest documentary, less than three months after the disaster took place.”
Despite such clear conflict-of-interest issues, and the Emmys Awards rules that require that film submissions “do not infringe the rights of any third party,” Netflix’s film has been nominated for the following 2019 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Documentary/Nonfiction Special, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Sound Editing and Outstanding Sound Mixing.
*The case is Pinedo v. Netflix Studios, LLC, 1:19-cv-07722 (SDNY).