Copyright Infringement at The Rendlesham Forest Conference?

Copyright claim

Copyright infringement claims have recently been made following one of the UKs most hotly anticipated UFO events.

(Since this post was written, there has been an update on the story – you can see the update by clicking here)


Since the eagerly awaited Colonel Charles Halt Woodbridge Briefing event that took place in the UK on July 11th 2015, things appear to have got a little out of hand. The already contentious subject of what actually happened in Rendlesham Forest in December 1980 has now descended into chaos with one film-maker’s event footage being removed from YouTube amid claims of copyright infringement.

As  stated  in a previous post, I am not a part of the Rendlesham Forest Incident (RFI)/ UFO research community. I am a writer who has several friends within the RFI community. In the last year, I have met up with some of the original key players locally and had some interesting conversations with them. I do not have a UFO book or any associated ‘space products’ to sell. I am a reporter with an interest in people and events of all kinds. As such I deal in facts as far as possible. Sometimes, as with a situations like the RFI, hard facts are in short supply.

copyright Infringement
Brenda Butler was the first civilian investigator. Her work began while the incident was still warm in 1980.

Millions of spoken or written words have been generated since the incident. A huge proportion of them are based on the hearsay and opinion that has developed over 35 years. There were a finite number of civilians and military personnel  who were actually living and working in the Rendlesham area at the time. Only a relatively tiny proportion of those people had any truly direct, first-hand experience of the incident, as it happened, 35 years ago. A few were at the epicentre of the incident and a few were on the edge of it. They are the ‘hot’ A listers of the Rendlesham Forest Incident. 

Rendlesham Forest Incident
One of the books co-authored by Brenda Butler

Anyone else who was not there in the woods or immediate area in December 1980  is dealing with secondhand information that, over the years has become third-hand, fourth-hand and so on. 

The original civilian investigators, such as Brenda Butler and Dot Street, who did research and interviews with the incident A listers at the time are warm B listers . Those who got on board within 10 years as the trail was rapidly cooling and talked to the A and B listers are very luke -warm C listers. Beyond that, there are hundreds of  people who  have jumped on board the RFI bandwagon at various points along the way over the last 35 years. Many are not local, they do not have first-hand experience of the incident and they simply regurgitate, re-work, embellish or add yet another opinion to the many that already exist. These people are stone cold D to Z listers, rated according to when they got involved, who they spoke to and what their agenda is. It should be noted that the D – Z list grows bigger by the year. Hards facts or first-hand experience of the RFI are as rare as hen’s teeth. Conversely, opinions on what really happened in the woods and who is telling ‘The Truth’ are as common and varied as supermarket plastic bags.

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Where does everyone stand in the Rendlesham Forest Incident A – Z of knowledge and experience? Who is Hot, Warm or Stone Cold?

Copyright Infringement – Or Not?

With that in mind, I move on to the main subject of this post –  a copyright infringement claim that happened following the Colonel Halt Briefing event. The claim has risen from the ashes of what could have been an informative, fact driven evening in the company of interesting speakers, one of whom was hot property from the incident’s A list and another from the B list. Colonel Halt and Brenda Butler are two of the very few people who were there, in the Rendlesham area in 1980. It was no surprise that people were willing to pay £20 each to hear them speak. If they had been the only speakers at the conference, with no superfluous padding, this copyright infringement claim would never have arisen.

copyright infringement

Based on my knowledge of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, I believe this kind of copyright infringement claim to be grossly misguided. As with all journalists who trained with the NCTJ college at Harlow, I have a  grounding in the Act.

copyright infringement
The Journalist’s Bible

When I heard that the video of the Colonel Halt Woodbridge Briefing had been removed from YouTube due to a copyright infringement claim, based on what I witnessed happening at the event, I was astounded . The video was shot and edited by Ben Emlyn-Jones.  Ben is known for the films he makes when he travels all over the country seeking out paranormal phenomena and associated public events. He has a YouTube channel called HPANWO and it is widely known in UFO/paranormal circles that Ben is a film-maker. And for those who perhaps don’t know what he does, the camcorder he carries everywhere on a tripod does give a bit of a clue.

Ben, as I understand it, had been asked by the organiser to film the Colonel Halt event. It is  also well known within the RFI/paranormal community that Ben always publishes his films on his YouTube channel. Ben’s filming began on the morning of the event when we met up with Colonel Halt at Rendlesham Forest where the Colonel was to conduct a tour. I was there for the first 30 minutes of the tour to get film clips and pictures for my blog. It was absolutely crystal clear that this walk in the forest was a picture opportunity (to which the local press had been invited as well).

copyright infringement
Everyone was fully aware of filming. Next to me was the press photographer who had been invited. Faces have been blurred here through personal choice – NOT because the subjects have any complaint in law.

A local press photographer did indeed attend and he took many pictures. Some of his shots were set up and some were ‘action’ shots of the whole group walking towards the camera. At no time did any member of the group ask him not to do this. It was very obvious to all concerned that filming and photography was going on. And as it was happening in a public place, photography could not have been restricted anyway.

No requests were made to refrain from filming anybody taking part in the walk. During the 30 minutes I was there, I set up various group shots that were both filmed and photographed while the subjects willingly stood where they were asked and posed for the cameras. While the group shots were going on, a youth, who was there with his father, declined to be in them. Out of courtesy, he was invited to be a part of the large group picture but did not want to be and that was fine. When I was happy that I had the shots I wanted, I left the woods to go home. The tour continued, with Ben filming until the end.

Copyright Infringement – Another Scene of the Alleged ‘Crime’

Later that afternoon, I went over to the Woodbridge Community Hall where a group of local (unpaid) volunteers were working  hard to help the organisers get the hall ready for the evening’s proceedings. Ben was already setting up his camera to film the event. He was positioned in a very prominent place at the front of the stage.

Below is a screenshot taken from video footage clearly showing Ben’s prominence in filming the speakers. He can be seen in the top right corner as the speaker speaks in the direction of his camera.

copyright infringement
Ben Emlyn-Jones filming the event as agreed.

Ben had been provided with access to an electrical socket to plug his camcorder in. The extension lead he used had been taped to the floor to comply with Healthy and Safety requirements. You could not miss it. I set up my own cameras in two very prominent, visible places on the stage. Conversations took place with the eventual copyright infringement claimant about where he would be standing when giving his talk.

We discussed where he would stand to ensure getting the projection screen in shot as well. He told me, and the sound technician, he would be speaking from the stage. The stage had an especially designed set that was to form the backdrop for the speakers. The PA system and microphones were being set up by unpaid, amateur volunteers. No provision was made to employ paid professionals to set up the sound. The sound system was set to operate with the speakers presenting on the stage. This would create the best experience for the paying guests, especially those further back.

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The stage set was not used for the first two speakers

However, when the first speakers came on, they spoke from the floor, at the same level as the audience. This caused problems which naturally irritated some of the paying audience. The speakers spoke directly in front of the camera that Ben was using to film the event. They could not possibly have been unaware of Ben’s camera, and several others in the audience, pointing at them. The organiser of the event did not, at any point, make an announcement saying that filming was prohibited or restricted in any way. In fact, Ben’s filming of the event had been very obviously facilitated by, and had the blessing of, the organiser.

Section 58 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, particularly point C, is very clear on what should happen if a speaker wants to make copyright restrictions on a speech is he giving.

copyright infringement
An excerpt from McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists – Page 399
copyright infringement
An excerpt from McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists Page 400

Note the final paragraph of the above extract from McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. Could a speaker have second thoughts about his remarks and prohibit reporting of them afterwards? Clearly – he cannot.

Unlike ben, I was not in a hurry to produce a film or blog-post about the event. Ben however had many people, who were unable to attend the event, looking forward to seeing his film. He had edited his film and published it on YouTube by Sunday July 12th.

For reasons known only to the claimant, who had stood happily in front of Ben’s camera (and many others) only hours earlier, he ( as I have been advised by Ben), contacted YouTube and  had the film removed. He allegedly complained that his copyright had been infringed. I refer you again to the above extract. This cannot be done after the event.

Copyright infringement
The Act is there to protect – not to silence people who have a different opinion to yourself

This surprising development was yet another disappointing aspect of what originally promised to be an upbeat event headlined by Colonel Halt.  One of the talks was practically impossible to hear. Another one, in my opinion, was illustrated with some very odd looking pictures and seemed to consist of regurgitated information about astronauts and the possible moon-landing hoax that we all know about anyway. We also learned that astronauts have supposedly seen many UFOs while zipping about in space.

However, as some of the Apollo astronauts (some of America’s biggest heroes) were then referred to by the speaker as ‘recovering alcoholics’, (some of whom, apparently still like a drink – according to the same speaker), it did leave us wondering what to believe. The speaker intimated that he has spent years meeting with the said astronauts. He implied he had great fun plying one astronaut in particular with ‘jugs of Margaritas’. Alcohol, apparently, made former astronauts loose-lipped in the company of the speaker and tell him stuff. Ok… sure…moving swiftly on… How happy would you be to be called a recovering alcoholic in public? Not nice and not professional – in my opinion.

Further disappointment came later when Colonel Halt took the stage and launched the apparent attack on Larry Warren, who was not there to defend himself. I began to wonder why this event consisted of unpleasant slurs on people who were not present.  It was deeply uncomfortable for Larry’s many friends. Should they have stuck up for him? Maybe, but for whatever reason, they did not.  I suspect that no one wanted  to take on the two men who kept a tight control over who spoke, what they said and when they said it. The vulnerable usually find it hard to stand up to those who they may perceive as ruthless. That could have happened here. That is life. It is my belief the only person who could have and definitely would have spoken out was Larry himself which is why, I suspect, he was not allowed to be there. Questions from the audience were vetted beforehand and kept to a bare minimum. The event was brought to a sudden end well before the expected time and some people appeared to be left a little shell-shocked.

copyright infringement
This is Larry Warren in Rendlesham Forest May 2015 – he featured heavily in the event but was not there to defend himself.

 Copyright Infringement Claim – The Effects

Regarding the film’s removal from YouTube, Ben tells me  he believes that the claim of copyright infringement has been made because some people are unhappy that the film expresses support for Larry Warren. Ben has now made another film, which is on YouTube, stating this view. Surely if a person is ripped apart in public, they and their supporters have the legal right of reply…in public. 

When I attended the event, I did not expect to be writing a feature about copyright infringement. I expected to be writing something interesting and upbeat about a very positive RFI event. However, as I perceive the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is probably being misused in this case, I have to speak out. As a professional writer/photographer and amateur film-maker I know what an important piece of legislation the Act is for everybody who produces creative work. We need protection against those who seek to misuse the hard work of others. However, the Act is not a weapon to be swung at someone who has upset you by having an opinion different to your own.

YouTube, it seems, is swift to remove anything that someone claims copyright infringement on. In some ways that is a good thing because it protects victims of true copyright infringement immediately. However, I hope that their appeal system is supportive of those who fall victim to blatant misuse of the Act. It must never be used as a way of silencing those with controversial opinions.

copyright infringement
We HAVE to fight dubious claims

Many people are behind Ben Emlyn-Jones and are watching with interest to see if his appeal to YouTube is upheld, the copyright strike lifted and the film reinstated.

You can read more about my thoughts on the Colonel’s Return by clicking this link to Part 1 The Colonel Returns

2 thoughts on “Copyright Infringement at The Rendlesham Forest Conference?”

  1. Pingback: Copyright Claim on YouTube Denied - see details here.

  2. Pingback: The Rendlesham Forest Incident July 2015 Briefing

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