Netflix may have to pay up after using footage of a real-life tragedy in both one of their movies and one of their shows, ABC News is reporting. The footage, which was edited into the movie Bird Box as well as an episode of the series Travelers, shows the crash of a freight train that happened in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. The train was carrying oil, and the crash resulted in an explosion and fire. A total of 47 people were killed in the accident. The Canadian Parliament has now ruled that Netflix should compensate residents of the town the accident took place in.
According to Vice, Peacock Alley Entertainment — the production company behind the series Travelers — agreed to remove the footage from their show. Netflix is unable to remove the footage from Bird Box, however. They apologized on January 21 in a letter Netflix penned to Quebec Culture and Communication Minister Nathalie Roy.
“Netflix was not aware of the source of the footage and understands that many feel frustration and sadness at seeing images of this tragic event,” wrote Corie Wright, Netflix’s public policy director. “We regret any pain caused to the Lac-Mégantic community and have expressed this directly to [Lac-Mégantic] Mayor Julie Morin.”
She then went on to explain that using stock footage is a common practice in the editing room and that they will begin discussions on how to prevent this type of incident from recurring. Removing the footage entirely, however, is not a possibility.
#BirdBox was criticized earlier this month for showing real-life footage of the July 2013 train accident, which is the fourth-deadliest rail accident in Canadian history. Now Canada's Parliament is getting involved: https://t.co/kWy054Js2r pic.twitter.com/fp0GPCcdEq
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) February 1, 2019
“The use of stock footage is a widespread and long-standing practice in the film and television industry. As a result, stock images are commonly used within content on Netflix and on other services,” the letter reads. “This widespread use prevents us from making the changes you request on finished content.”
On January 29, Pierre Nantel, a member of the country’s New Democrat party, introduced a new piece of legislation that would require Netflix to compensate Lac-Mégantic residents. The Canadian Parliament voted unanimously in favor of the motion. Technically this motion is nonbinding, so they can’t legally force Netflix to agree to this. Still, the ruling makes a public statement that puts extra pressure on Netflix to comply.
Whether Netflix will do this or not remains to be seen. So far, Netflix continues to refer to their apology letter when asked about the situation. Nantel is determined, however, and is continuing to campaign via social media to encourage them to pay as a compromise since they are unable to remove the scene.
“We know people are going to go and watch this film, and again these real images will be used,” said Nantel. “For people in Lac-Mégantic, they saw images of their own downtown burning, and could imagine their own family members in it.”
Yesterday, the House of Commons of Canada unanimously voted to condemn @Netflix_CA.
It asks Netflix to remove images of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which cost 47 lives, from the movie Bird Box.
— Pierre Nantel (@pierrenantel) January 30, 2019