Coachella Threatens Legal Action Against Frank Ocean Filmmaker

Coachella Frank Ocean filmmaker
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Coachella Frank Ocean filmmaker
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Photo Credit: Ole Haug / CC by 2.0

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

Professional filmmaker Brian Kinnes stitched together around 150 videos uploaded by Coachella attendees to YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter to make an unofficial film spanning the entirety of Frank Ocean’s set from April 16. 

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

Coachella’s parent corporation, who also owns Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, writes that “anything short of full compliance with this demand will lead to the initiation of immediate formal legal action.” 

The 26-year-old Kinnes, a lead editor at Simone Films, made his movie after official Coachella live stream partner YouTube announced that they would not include Ocean’s set in the official Coachella live stream. Kinnes, a massive Frank Ocean fan, made a similar film in 2017 by compiling fan-uploaded footage of Ocean’s show at the now-defunct FYF Fest.

Due to a report filed by third-party copyright holder Rico Management, Kinnes’ 2023 film — the most definitive and high-quality recording 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 were still hosting and downloading the concert film. Those links have since been removed from Kinnes’ website, which now features a disclaimer that the film is “currently unavailable to the public.”

“I’m not concerned with any legal repercussions because I do not plan on making a single penny from it,” Kinnes told Variety. “I will continue to upload it in places that (Ocean’s) legal team will not be able to find. I don’t know if I should tell that to a reporter, but it deserves to exist online.”

However, since AEG demanded that Kinnes remove all references to Coachella from his website and associated social media accounts, he has complied by deleting tweets and scrubbing the video from his website. Still, Kinnes says he is confident that “the video is going to be online forever,” as many fans could download it before the cease-and-desist filing required him to take it down.

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

“I’m just combining what’s publicly available,” says Kinnes. “(AEG’s) claims are pretty frivolous and almost completely baseless.”

Kinnes sounds confident, but the copyright and IP laws surrounding his film are complicated, given that the film includes Ocean’s music and lyrics, graphics and video elements that Kinnes does not own, the festival’s trademarks and signage, and the social media platforms to which fans uploaded the original recordings. 

Legal experts say AEG could make a trademark dilution claim even if Kinnes tries a fair use defense — and even if Kinnes is not held liable for infringement. Kinnes did not attend the festival, so AEG’s festival ticket terms, which state that “no one may transmit, broadcast, or communicate any live audio or audiovisual images from the event site,” would not necessarily apply since he did not agree to AEG’s ticket 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 flimsy, given that he tweeted that “the amount of job offers I’ve gotten in the last 48 hours is truly insane.” AEG’s legal team should be eager to point out if Kinnes received monetary gain from the film from which he claimed not to have made a penny.