Coachella threatens legal action against filmmaker Frank Ocean

Photo credit: Ole Haug / CC from 2.0

Coachella parent company AEG is threatening legal action against a filmmaker who made a concert film using found footage of Frank Ocean’s April 16 performance at the festival.

Professional filmmaker Brian Kinnes compiled around 150 videos uploaded to YouTube, TikTok and Twitter by Coachella attendees to create an unofficial film covering the entire set of Frank Ocean’s April 16th.

Kinnes released the film, which runs about an hour and 20 minutes, on Tuesday April 25 and received a cease and desist order from entertainment company AEG the same day. AEG asked Kinnes to “remove and destroy all audio and video content (…) of the musical performances from the festival.”

Coachella’s parent company, which includes Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, writes that “any failure to comply with this requirement will result in the initiation of immediate formal legal action.”

Kinnes, 26, editor-in-chief at Simone Films, made his film after official Coachella livestream partner YouTube announced it would not be including Ocean’s set on the official Coachella livestream. Kinnes, a big Frank Ocean fan, made a similar film in 2017 by compiling fan-uploaded footage of Ocean’s show at the now-defunct FYF Fest.

Following a report from third-party copyright holder Rico Management, Kinnes’ 2023 film — the most definitive and high-quality capture of the highly controversial Coachella performance — was quickly removed from YouTube. But Kinnes provided links on his website to sites like Dropbox and Google Drive, where people still hosted and downloaded the concert film. Those links have since been removed from Kinnes’ website, which now disclaims that the film is “not currently available to the public”.

“I’m not worried about any legal ramifications because I don’t intend to make a dime from it,” Kinnes said diversity. “I will continue to upload it to places that[Ocean’s]legal team cannot find. I don’t know if I should tell a reporter this, but it deserves to exist online.”

However, since AEG demanded that Kinnes remove all references to Coachella from its website and associated social media accounts, he complied with this request by deleting tweets and removing the video from his website. Still, Kinnes says he’s confident “the video will stay online forever” as many fans were able to download it before the cease and desist letter forced him to remove it.

Kinnes explains that he edited the film for over 80 hours using DaVinci Resolve. He sent the two clearest audio files he could find from Ocean’s set to an audio engineer who combined them into one clean recording. Kinnes then stitched together hundreds of videos he found online from festival-goers. He estimated that he downloaded 450 videos from 300 different concert goers and used about 150 clips in his edit.

“I just combine what’s publicly available,” says Kinnes. “(AEG’s) claims are quite frivolous and almost completely unfounded.”

Kinnes sounds confident, but the copyright and IP laws surrounding his film are complicated considering the film Oceans has music and lyrics, graphics and video elements that Kinnes does not own, the festival’s trademarks and signage, and the social Media platforms that fans are looking forward to have uploaded the original footage.

Legal experts say AEG could make a trademark dilution claim even if Kinnes tries to defend itself through fair use — and even if Kinnes isn’t held liable for infringement. Since Kinnes was not attending the festival, AEG’s festival ticket terms, which state that “no one may transmit, transmit or communicate live audio or audiovisual images from the venue,” would not necessarily apply, as he did not come with AEG’s ticket agreed terms. Regardless, the policy is rarely enforced, as evidenced by the 450 Frank Ocean videos Kinnes downloaded to create his film.

Kinnes’ defense of fair use might be tenuous in the face of this tweeted that “the amount of job offers I’ve received in the last 48 hours is really insane.” AEG’s legal team should be careful to point out whether the film, which allegedly didn’t make him a dime, gave Kinnes a financial hit made a profit.