After several days of fallout, video editor and marketing professional Rodney Lief finally feels comfortable talking openly about the stresses of the weekend - but some of what he's told us poses more questions than it answers. He had edited a piece of visual art used to promote bass music artists NGHTMRE and Flux Pavilion's long-awaited collaboration, "Feel Your Love," only to face backlash when numerous artists accused him of wrongfully appropriating their content for use in the video.
"There were 200+ clips sampled in the video and no money exchanged for the video," Lief told Magnetic Magazine in an email. "The version that came out was still very much a work in progress, and I didn't know the release date until two days before they went live. It all happened quick."
After a social media post by the artist kyttenjanae sparked the initial controversy, Flux Pavilion-owned Circus Records moved to credit each individual artist in the video description on their YouTube page, but eventually took the video down in accordance with their wishes.
In a phone conversation, Lief told us, "They still are trying to work out something for a video that’s not there, but right now, that video probably won’t likely get published."
According to Lief, NGHTMRE and Flux Pavilion were upset by the circumstances, which he claims were the result of "an oversight on our part to not do the digging and credit each artist before that went public." He did express feeling that he had felt unfairly vilified over the sequence of events, however. He said:
I think I was made a scapegoat in the situation. There were a lot of fingers pointed at me, but I think now it’s been kind of resolved. A lot of the artists who were upset removed their posts, and I think it’s dying back down.
Lief, who works as marketing consultant for Twitter and Vine, points out that attribution is a big part of his day-to-day life, as those platforms aim to highlight creators of original content. As such, he found the plagiarism accusations particularly unsettling. After working with Circus Records to prepare an official statement, Lief made the following tweet:
However, the above statement contrasted in tone with his initial email response to kyttenjenae, which was originally published by Your EDM:
“Just letting you know I do these videos for fun, there was no money exchanged for the Feel Your Love video.
The label was aware that I would be sampling/editing a collection of content from all over.
I don’t want to not create these edits, as my end product is always something entirely new than just a single piece of content sampled & it’s just something I really enjoy doing.
I’m currently working on a website/portfolio to house my edits, where I’ll be able to feature each video along with full attribution/link to the many pieces I sampled & the artists that produced them.”
What stands out more than anything else in Lief's email is that he had not apologize once, explicitly or otherwise, which would suggest that he initially did not feel that he had done anything wrong. We brought up the discrepancy during our conversation with him and asked what had prompted to his change in perception. He hesitatedat first, but then replied:
I think I just didn’t realize how hurt the artists were. Compared to my past releases, I think I didn’t realize the magnitude of this release, and I definitely saw a different perspective throughout the weekend, like how serious it was to them. I guess my assumption was with the video that these were .GIFs, and no one in their right mind could have produced 200 of them for a video like that. But I’ve been in their shoes, and had similar things happen to me.
While it's respectable for him to acknowledge that he had initially responded inappropriately, though, upon closer inspection Lief's remarks raise even more important questions.
He claimed that his "Feel Your Love" visual artwork was his "most official release, and that’s why it got the attention that it did." On his LinkedIn profile, however, he lists Diplo, Major Lazer and Afrojack as other artists for whom he's edited video.
First of all, in what world are Diplo, Major Lazer and Steve Aoki releases less official than those of NGHTMRE and Flux Pavilion - and second, could what he said be construed to mean that one or more of those artists also has visual art containing unattributed content floating around?
"'Feel Your Love' was my first published full-length edit," he later explained. "My works before were only a few seconds long and shared on social media." Below are examples of visual artwork he'd done - specifically for releases by Riff Raff and Solano:
Aside from his less-than-ideal handling of the situation early on, Lief appeared able to clear up whatever lapses in continuity seemed to surface from his story. In any event, he at least came across as being regretful of his misjudgements. "I admire all the pieces I ended up using in the final edit, so it crushes me to have hurt the artists," he left off. "I can only hope some of these artists would allow me to use their works in the future, with permission and proper crediting. Lessons have been learned for all involved and we're truly sorry for fucking this up."
Nonetheless, cases like these demonstrate that a modern businessperson shouldn't resort to obviously unethical behavior in the first place. No matter which way you slice a story like this it's not a good look for anyone involved, so in this day and age you're better off doing the right thing from the start.
Until further statements are issued by NGHTMRE, Flux Pavilion, Circus Records and/or Rodney Lief, the imagery meant to accompany "Feel Your Love" will remain offline indefinitely.