When Netflix’s documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened debuted in January, it came under fire almost immediately. A bit of background about the making of the film that documents the ill-fated “luxury” music festival and a brief glance at the credits reveal why: Netflix paid Fyre Fest co-creator Billy McFarland a sum of reportedly in the ballpark of $250,000, a scenario that was not revealed before, during, or after the film. The implication? The narrative is skewed, which is likely why reviews have pegged it as “an Empathetic Look at an Epic Fail.”
As for what was revealed? The film’s credits show that it was co-produced by Jerry Media. Not problematic on its face, the involvement of Jerry Media is questionable considering that the firm was responsible for nearly all of the marketing that prompted millennials to pay between $1,500 and $250,000 for tickets to attend the Exumas, Bahamas-based Fyre Festival, which was promised to be a more “transformative,” more luxurious, more model-filled version of the annual Coachella Valley Music Festival.
It has since been alleged that Jerry Media pitched the documentary idea to fellow producing entity Vice just months after the “scam” went down and according to a lawsuit filed by the court-appointed trustee for the bankruptcy proceedings of Fyre Media LLC, McFarland and co. paid “over $500,000 to the company that shot and edited Fyre Festival ads and Festival footage, which ultimately used that footage to produce a profitable and popular documentary panning the Festival (without sharing any of the proceeds of that documentary with those victimized by McFarland).”
But the controversy that is Netflix’s multi-Emmy Award nominated Fyre film does not end there: Netflix, Jerry Media (the parent company that the legally controversial @FuckJerry – which Rolling Stone has described as “an advertising company masquerading as a ‘meme page’” – falls under), and Vice Media have been named in lawsuits for allegedly stealing a number of the videos and still-images they included in the doc.
In the latest suit, which was filed in a California federal court on September 3, Austin Mills claims that he attended Fyre Fest in April 2017 and “recorded his travels to and from the so-called festival, as well as his time on the ground where the festival was to have taken place and created a video,” which he shared on his YouTube page. The social media personality and entrepreneur plaintiff claims that prior to production of the Netflix doc, the defendants approached him with an offer to license his video, but “no agreement for any license was reached and at no point did [he] consent to the defendants’ use of his video or any part thereof.”
Nevertheless, Mills alleges that to his “great surprise, the defendants did use [at least 5 clips] from his video in their film.”
In addition to the Netflix documentary being viewed by “more than 20 million [Netflix] members,” Mills asserts in his complaint that the defendants “have used portions of their film [including Mills’] appropriated footage in connection with their Emmy Awards campaign” in furtherance of a larger “media campaign to absolve some defendants of their complicity in [the festival] scam.” In particular, Mills claims that the involvement in the Netflix film by Jerry Media and New York-based production company Matte Projects – which “were deeply involved in the publicity of the fraudulent and failed Fyre Festival as the agency behind the social media promotion and the company behind the viral promotional video” – is little more than “a strategic and calculated move to blame others and control their public image.”
With the foregoing in mind, Mills sets forth claims of copyright infringement, and 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 Mills 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 [Mills’] videos,” plus punitive damages.
*The case is Austin Mills v. Netflix, Inc, Jerry Media, Vice Media, LLC, et al., 2:19-cv-07618 (C.D. Cal.)