MoveOn Brave New Films v. Viacom

EFF and Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project (FUP) asked a federal court on March 22 2007 to protect the free speech rights of Civic Action and Brave New Films after their satirical send-up of "The Colbert Report" was removed from YouTube following a baseless copyright complaint from media giant Viacom. Responding to Viacom's willingness to take steps to protect the free speech rights of those who post videos to YouTube and similar video sharing sites EFF and FUP subsequently dismissed the case.

The video called "Stop the Falsiness " was created by MoveOn and Brave New Films as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert's portrayal of the right-wing media and parodying MoveOn's own reputation for earnest political activism. The short film uploaded to YouTube in August 2006 includes clips from "The Colbert Report" as well as humorous original interviews about show host Stephen Colbert. In March of this year Viacom -- the parent company of Comedy Central -- demanded that YouTube take "Stop the Falsiness" down claiming the video infringed its copyrights.

Viacom initially denied sending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice that resulted in the removal of the video from YouTube while saying it had no objection to "Stop the Falsiness." However Viacom later conceded it was the source of the demand and admitted error in taking action against the parody.

In the course of discussions with EFF and FUP Viacom described the steps it endorses for protecting fair use and free expression as it targets copyright infringement on Internet video sites. This includes: manual review of every video that is a potential DMCA takedown target training reviewers to avoid issuing takedown requests for fair use and publicly stating that it does not challenge use of Viacom materials that are "creative newsworthy or transformative" and are "a limited excerpt for non commercial purposes."

Furthermore in reaction to the MoveOn/BNF suit Viacom moved the ball forward for Internet users' rights. In order to address any similarly erroneous takedown notices in the future Viacom has agreed to set up a website and email "hotline " promising a review of any complaint within one business day and a reinstatement if the takedown request was in error.

In light of these disclosures and commitments -- designed to protect the fair use and free speech rights of Internet users who rely on video sharing sites like YouTube -- MoveOn and BNF have dismissed their claims against Viacom.

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