Asheville YouTube star caught in a Web crossfire

Will Chatham didn’t exactly get cut down by a light saber, but he definitely feels burned.

Chatham does Web development and server administration for the federal government; in addition, he does jobs on the side for Asheville Technologies, a local Web-development company. But Chatham is also a seasoned musician, and two years ago, he was playing around with his banjo and decided to pluck out the Star Wars theme song. He videotaped his performance and put it up on YouTube.

Star Wars theme silenced: Will Chatham’s rendition of the theme from the movie Star Wars was recently taken down from YouTube after Warner Music Group claimed a copyright violation.

The quirky take went viral, and Chatham says it’s had more than 1.5 million views and received more than 7,000 comments online.

But that all came to a halt quicker than a Wookie can say “Chewbaca” when YouTube yanked the video on Jan. 18, noting that the Warner Music Group had lodged a copyright-infringement claim.

“I have a hard time understanding why they would have a problem with someone playing the song on the banjo,” says Chatham. “It just doesn’t make sense. I didn’t use any kind of graphics or sample the theme song. I would have considered it a parody or that sort of thing—fair use, as my understanding of the law goes.”

Chatham appears to have fallen victim to an ongoing dispute between Warner and YouTube. The music label says it’s not being paid enough for its music being played on the Web site and has demanded that Google, which owns YouTube, remove all the music from the site. Warner and four other labels want a dedicated music-video Web site that would be developed either as a separate service or in conjunction with an existing site such as YouTube.

For now, Chatham says he’s appealing YouTube‘s decision to take down his banjo rendition of the epic Star Wars theme.

“Hopefully my counterclaim will go through,” he says, adding, “I’d like to get it back up there.”

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