An Open Letter Regarding The International Dragon Boats

July 14, 2011

(or:  How To Lose Complete Focus When Fundraising For Cancer)

I am a proud citizen of Windsor.  I am proud to call this my home.  I am proud to work here with my small business and proud to create my art here.  One of the things I love the most here are the dedicated people who organize some of the best charity fundraisers I have ever seen.  Now I give what I can in cash dollars to the charities I support but as a filmmaker with a loud mouth, throughout the years, I have been asked endlessly to create video promotional material for organizations.  Sometimes it’s videos to promote upcoming events, sometimes it’s video content for galas and events, but mostly it’s documenting events to make a highlight video that can live on for years afterwards.

I have been doing this for ten years and never have I claimed any of the work, equipment, time, or talent as a tax receipt.  That is not why I do it.  I do it because from high school as the geeky little Dawson’s Creekesque kid, I learned that video can bring out raw emotion, sounds and images combined together can make a message stand taller than on paper.  I do it because I feel it would be a waste of my talent to only choose projects that pay my bills.

So today, I am saddened and somewhat baffled by a series of events unfolding.  Last year, I was approached by two very wonderful women- complete strangers to be asking if I would take part in a brand new charity event they had been planning.  The Breast Ride Ever.  They kinda had my pledge at the name alone!  I had just finished up with Transition To Betterness main video commitment for the year and thought: “I’m kinda stretched with all that’s going on this summer but what’s one day, right?”.  I signed on and since that time, I’ve seen nothing but warmth and a general urge to help from both of them and the entire organization.  The 2010 Breast Ride Ever was a smashing success.  There were more motorcycle riders than they had hoped for, the weather was beautiful, and sponsors came out of nowhere to assist (always risky to support a first time charity event because you don’t know if the organizers have it in them to properly go the distance.)

One of the most amazing things that happened was the International Dragon Boats took The Breast Ride under their wing.  This included allowing The Breast Ride Ever to host their ride on the same weekend as the Dragon Boats, use the Dragon Boats home base at Riverside & Manning to have their registration tent, have their riders take part in the beautiful rose ceremony and tribute to loved ones lost, and then kick-off and end their motorcycle ride at the grounds.

My job in all of this was simple.  Bring my camera, film the day, take the footage and edit it together in a way that can be touching, thank the sponsors, and help draw attention to the event for future years of fundraising.  That I did and we posted the video online under a Youtube account I created.  You can see the video here: http://www.youtube.com/thebreastrideever .

So here’s where the silliness starts.  In that video, you hear music by four artists.  Three local:  Jody Raffoul, Rick Rock, Glen MacNeil and then The Afters.  In the video, you will also see the Dragon Boat logo modified to have a motorcycle across it.

This logo was modified with full knowledge by The Dragon Boat organizers; they even provided the original art files to The Breast Ride Ever.  The logo was used on banners, all promotional material, and websites, in addition to my video.  Heck, you can see it on all the Breast Ride Ever t-shirts the riders are wearing in the video- the point being – clearly present on the day of the ride and all marketing leading up to the event day.

The song by Glen MacNeil was written for The International Dragon Boats and I filmed it as he performed it during the rose ceremony which you can see in the above Youtube page link (song starts around 1:12 in the video).  Again, the song was provided to The Breast Ride Ever from Dragon Boat organizers on a compact disc which was then passed on to me so I could ingest it into my editing system and use it in the video to blend seamlessly with Glen’s live performance.

The video was released November 24, 2010 and was emailed around to as many people involved with The Breast Ride Ever; including members of The International Dragon Boats.  The comments and emails I received were glowing – I’m not tooting my own horn, I don’t need praise, I’m just happy to know that the video I created served its purpose and can be a heartwarming look back at something a group of Windsorites banded together to create and help fight the ongoing battle to find a cure for cancer.  That’s what it’s all about, right?  That’s what all these cancer charities should be spending their time and budget and efforts and focus on, right?  Finding a cure.  Doing their part to raise the money they can through their fundraising efforts to find a cure?  (Obviously some of the charities help cancer and patients in other ways, I’m not forgetting that fact).

So WHY the next part I’m about to explain to you is happening is beyond me.

This year, the 2011 Breast Ride Ever took place as a completely separate event from The International Dragon Boats.  In fact, the ONLY crossover this year was the fact that in order to ride along the water on our beautiful Riverside Drive, the motorcycle riders passed by the park where The Dragon Boats were taking place once again.  Actually, most of the riders honked and waved and showed their support for their fellow cancer charity- I know, I was there having my hair whipped in my eyes as I filmed from the back of a truck.

Separate why?  Well, that’s a long story of its own but we all know how it goes… sometimes people try to work together, either one or both parties don’t have as pleasant an experience they hoped for and they go their separate ways.  Except we are living in Windsor, which, if the world is two degrees of separation, then Windsor is two degrees and if you include Facebook having a stranglehold on containing us all to being each others friends, then it’s less than that… in fact, you should probably make sure the person you’re sleeping with isn’t related… it’s that small of a community.  So by living here in our lovely little gossip fueled blue collar city, rarely can people walk away from a less than pleasant working experience or artistic endeavour without having to start an all out smear campaign and do whatever they can to rain on the other party’s parade.  Again, I won’t get into full details, those can be disclosed by the people that know them the best.  That’s not the point for this letter- so let’s just leave it at accusations were made, feelings were hurt- and that in my opinion is where it should have stopped, knowing both charity events could live on as completely separate entities.

Where I come in is that The Breast Ride Ever organizers relayed to me not long ago that there may need to be revisions on last year’s video that would remove the Glen MacNeil song and all reference to the Dragon Boat logo w/ the Breast Ride Motorcycle on it.  The organizers of The International Dragon Boats have claimed it is trademarked/copyright material.  To this, I had a full belly laugh and forgot all about.   Today, I get a follow up call stating that The Breast Ride Ever has been served legal papers in the form of a cease and desist claiming once again that the video is infringing on The International Dragon Boats trademarks/copyright material.

The material they are speaking of?  You guessed it:  Glen MacNeil’s song and the altered logo.

My initial reaction?

“They can go fuck themselves!  How does this help anyone with a heart for raising funds to fight cancer and all the problems it creates for the patients and families suffering?!”

My second reaction was much more in-depth as I started thinking back to the 2010 ride.  The song was written for International Dragon Boats but was given to me to use in the video from Dragon Boat organizers.  The live video of Glen performing the song has been in the video since it was posted November 24th, 2010.  The logo was used with permission, again recapping, provided to The Breast Ride Ever and myself from Dragon Boat organizers and their graphic design master file.

So why a cease and desist now?  Also, why a cease and desist at all?

Why now?

Well, because this is where pettiness takes over and one organization wants to pee on another’s parade since they are no longer united.  Is it fear of a 2nd year organization outgrowing The Dragon Boats and competing with them as they continue to grow?  Is it a beef from one organizer to the next instead of focusing on what matters- making YOUR charity event as successful as you can.  Why get lawyers now to ask for a video to be removed when it’s a video that paints your organization in a positive light?  A video that brings attention to your cause?  It’s so ludicrous for this to even be happening.

Why at all?

Now in the corporate world, sure, snuff out your competition, go for your “enemies” at the throat… big business (insert grunting and chest thumping here)- yes, yes I get that.  We’re talking about a charity here.  Why would you go out of your way to cause problems and hold some form of a petty grudge with a charity?  They aren’t your competition!  You’re on the same team.  It’s two different approaches to the same goal.  Heck, we need five more events that take place the same weekend and target different community members to get involved and raise money for cancer.  We need more Terry Foxes and Dragon Boats and Breast Rides and secondary school Walk-A-Thons – bring them on!  Don’t pit them against one another.  HOW FUCKING STUPID, RIGHT?  So what!  You had a bad experience- suck it up and forget about it – don’t even turn an eye of attention towards the people/organization you no longer agree with.  Spend that time finding more sponsors, getting more pledges, adding another team to your races – don’t weigh down the other charity with legal matters over what amounts to pretty much squat all at the end of the day.  How gracious that The Breast Ride Ever organizers allowed you to be included in their video!  They didn’t make it exclusive, they were gracious and loved Glen’s song and loved that it was included.  That’s amazing, not a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Anyhow, here’s the other part.  I, Gavin Booth, created that video from scratch.  I filmed it, I edited it, I produced it, I added the music, the graphics.  Me, me, me.  I made this video of my own free will and my own free offering and own the copyright on all the material created by me within in the video.   The International Dragon Boats are sending the cease and desist to the wrong people.  The Breast Ride Ever did not pay me, I have not signed anything relinquishing my rights to my artistic vision in this short documentary.  So here it is:

I have no plans to remove the video, to alter the video, or to play into something as silly as this.  Both organizations have credit in the community for raising money for cancer – it’s a cause I believe in – and nothing in my video is offensive, nor is there any reason it shouldn’t remain on the Youtube page I created encouraging people to take part in future years of the event.  The altered logo was created with permission, the song was provided to me via the organizers of the Dragon Boats so to turn around NOW and actually take the time and effort to seek out legal council on this is just down right stupidity.

If you think that Glen MacNeil is unhappy about his song and image being used in the video from the 2010 Breast Ride Ever – you’re mistaken.  If fact, here’s an email from Glen stating quite the opposite.

From: Glen MacNeil <****************@facebookmail.com>
To: Nikki Campeau <**********@yahoo.com>
Sent: Sat, December 11, 2010 11:46:04 AM
Subject: Re: [The Breast Ride Ever] Please share this video and join us on Saturday,…

Glen MacNeil commented on your post in The Breast Ride Ever.

Glen MacNeil

11:46am Dec 11

Great job on the video. It was a nice surprise to hear my song as part of your wonderful cause. All the best in 2011…

That email says to me that he’s happy to have been part of it, maybe even flattered his song was included and its reach was expanded beyond JUST the Dragon Boats in 2010.  He even sends his best to The Breast Ride Ever for their 2011 event.  What a gentleman.  So the issue doesn’t lie with the artist (whom I presume still retains the publishing rights to the music).  If anything, you would think a local talent like Glen would be happy to be alongside an internationally known band such as the Afters.  Now, Glen didn’t write the song to find fame for himself or new fans but hey, I can’t imagine anyone crying over more people discovering their music… especially not at a ratio of roughly 30:1 (800+ views on the Youtube video with his song included versus the 33 plays of the song on Glen’s Myspace page).

As for The Breast Ride Ever removing the video from their website.  I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure as they are not hosting the video on their site and it’s simply a link from a Youtube video, they retain the right to include whatever video link they would like.  Again – the letter is sent to the wrong organization.

If the Dragon Boats can logically explain to me what about the video I created is offensive or causing an issue for their ongoing fundraising, I might be inclined to remove it.  I do warn though that I have a video camera on my hip like a cowboy has a gun in holster, so I can’t promise I wouldn’t want to make said conversation public.  Until then, I think it’s gonna stay right where it is.  I’ll ask my personal trainer for additional neck muscle exercises to do at home, that way I’m fully prepared for the head shaking I will do if I’m served with a letter next.  Wouldn’t want to have to counter-sue for whiplash or anything.

So the summary:  anyone willing to put time and effort into the fight against cancer is an amazing spirit and any tool used to promote those efforts (especially when it’s free and people are promoting you and not even charging you) is fantastic.  Focus on the charity efforts and not the petty on-goings between organizations you may or may not have had a falling out with.

Cheers,

GMB

To the rest of you- I know I haven’t updated my blog in a long time… I’m terrible for not wanting to write unless I have something to say – just consider yourselves lucky that I realize not everything I think and feel is blog worthy.