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Kickstarter takes down campaign to digitally remove the rat from The Departed due to IP dispute

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The ‘erase the rat’ project has been erased

The rat, as seen in the closing shot of The Departed
Image: Warner Bros.

Adam Sacks was a video editor on a mission: to create a Kickstarter to digitally erase the rat that appears in the final scene of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film The Departed. But sadly, it seems that Sacks’ dream may not become a reality, with Warner Bros. issuing a DCMA copyright takedown request to cancel the project.

Sacks was attempting to raise $4,000 for the quest to remove the rat, which he describes on the campaign as a “painfully on the nose metaphor” that ruins the ending of an otherwise great film. (I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually seen The Departed, but I’ll take his word for it.) The project had actually hit its goal last week, but with Warner Bros. now claiming copyright violation, it probably won’t happen.

Warners Bros.’ request doesn’t split hairs about its issue with the project: “This campaign is to digitally remove a rat from the end of our motion picture, and is promising to distribute the edited footage upon completion, which violates our copyright in this film.”

The $4,000 would have been used for an oddly specific list of costs to make that dream come true, including buying a Blu-ray copy of The Departed ($18.91), a Blu-ray player ($141.54), Blu-ray ripping software ($59), hiring visual effects artist to remove the rat ($599, so that Sacks could avoid filing out tax forms), printing out the film on 35mm film ($414.59), scanning that film back to re-edit into the movie ($169.92), buying a one-month Adobe Creative Cloud license ($57.69), blank Blu-rays ($38.31), Sharpies ($2.71), and paying an intern to burn the fixed copies and mail them to backers ($350, at a rate of $15 / hour for 25 hours).

Sacks had planned to attempt to avoid copyright issues by not “technically” selling his fixed copy of The Departed, but rather accepting $70 donations so that he could “buy you a legal Blu-ray of The Departed, throw that disc away, replace it with my superior version, and mail it to you.” Sadly, it seems that the attempt to dodge those copyright issues has failed.

The risk to such artistic audacity was always there — Sacks did warn on the Kickstarter page that there was a chance Warner Bros. could take the project down.

All ambitious projects have risks and this one is no exception: mainly Warner Bros. owns the copyright to The Departed and may not appreciate me fixing their movie. But if I don’t receive a cease and desist letter and hit $4,000 it will happen. So please give me money so that together we can digitally erase the rat from the end of The Departed.

Still, all may not be lost. Sacks posted a response to the situation on his @RatErase Twitter account indicating that another brave soul may have already take it upon themselves to remove the rat from the film’s final scene. He also seems to be holding out hope that Warner Bros. takes the initiative itself one day with a proper 4K, Blu-Ray release.

“As this project comes to a close, I’d like to thank everyone who supported my dream and everyone who called me an idiot. Without all of your help, this story would to have reached national publications and triggered a Warner Brothers google alert,” he writes. “If there is a silver lining here (besides me not having to actually follow through on this), it’s that maybe all this online controversy about the rat will convince Warner Brothers to release a 4K Blu-Ray of The Departed. And maybe, just maybe, they will include an alternate rat-less ending. I’m fairly confident it would make them at least an additional $4,000 dollars.”

Update 2/25, 6:13PM ET: Added comment from Sacks posted to his @RatErase Twitter account this evening.