Several websites linking to Michael Moore's freebie film Slacker Uprising have received cease-and-desist letters demanding removal of the torrents.
The legal crackdown, news of which surfaced this week, seems like an odd move: The film was released online in September as a free gift to Moore's fans in the United States and Canada, with an e-mail from the director giving them permission to "share it or show it in any way you see fit."
The problem comes from international distribution of Slacker Uprising through the peer-to-peer sites, according to a lawyer from the firm of Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo, which issued the takedown notices.
"My purpose was to address unauthorized online dissemination outside the scope of authorization offered by Michael Moore," said attorney Neil Rosini in a phone interview Friday. "If a server makes the film available outside of the U.S. and Canada, then it's infringing copyright."
The move seems antithetical to the spirit of Moore's maverick distribution plan, which drew more than 2 million visitors to the Slacker Uprising site during the week of the movie's release.
The film, which documents Moore's 62-city tour in support of John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election, shot to the top slot on Amazon.com's Video on Demand movie rentals list.
At the time, Moore claimed he wanted audiences to "not only download it, but also to e-mail it, burn it and share it with anyone and everyone."
But according to Moore's publicity team, the documentary maker only owns the North American rights to the film. So, while he's happy to distribute it for free, the Weinstein Company, which owns international distribution rights, may not be so inclined.
Moore addressed the issue in a note to fans before the movie's release: "If you live outside the U.S. and Canada, I'm sorry that I don't own the rights to make this film available to you for free. But it will be coming to a theater, video store or television network near you soon."
Wired.com has requested an interview with Moore to discuss the crackdown; we'll update the post if and when it happens.What would you ask Moore? Let us know in the comments below.