The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed suit against an Australian record company for misusing copyright law to remove a lecture by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig from YouTube. With co-counsel Jones Day, EFF is asking a federal judge in Massachusetts to rule that the video is lawful fair use, to stop Liberation Music from making further legal threats, and to award damages.
“The rise of extremist enforcement tactics makes it increasingly difficult for creators to use the freedoms copyright law gives them,” Lessig said. “I have the opportunity, with the help of EFF, to challenge this particular attack. I am hopeful the precedent this case will set will help others avoid such a need to fight.”
Copyright law allows for the fair use of works for purposes such as criticism, comment, teaching, and scholarship. Professor Lessig’s use of the “Lisztomania” clips in his lecture was a classic example of fair use and was not copyright infringement.
Earlier this year, Liberation Music, which claims to own the license to the Phoenix song, began the process to block the video through YouTube’s copyright infringement system. After the company submitted a DMCA takedown notice, Lessig filed a counter-notice that asserted the clips were fair use. After Liberation Music threatened to sue Lessig, he retracted the notice. But Lessig did not concede this issue. Instead, he enlisted EFF’s help to take Liberation Music to court.
“There’s a long and sorry history of content owners abusing copyright to take down fair uses, but this one is particularly shocking,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “Based on nothing more than a few clips illustrating Internet creativity, Liberation Music took down an entire lecture by one of the leading experts in the world on copyright and fair use. This kind of abuse has to stop.”