As an RIAA spokesperson famously put it when asked about the spectacle of file-sharing lawsuits against innocent grandparents, "when you go fishing with a driftnet, sometimes you catch a dolphin."
Well, with its 100,000 DMCA takedown notices aimed at YouTube users, now it's Viacom that is netting its share of dolphins. Among the 100,000 videos targeted for takedowns was a home movie shot in a BBQ joint, a film trailer by a documentarian, and a music video (previously here) about karaoke in Singapore. None of these contained anything owned by Viacom. For its part, Viacom has admitted to "no more than" 60 mistakes, so far. Yet each mistake impacts free speech, both of the author of the video and of the viewing public.
If they are making these kinds of blatant mistakes, who can tell how many fair uses of Viacom content they also targeted in their 100,000 takedowns? Hundreds? Thousands? If Viacom made a clear mistake and your clip contains no content from Viacom-owned copyrighted works, sending a simple DMCA counter-notice to YouTube may be enough to do the job. But if you're attempting to make a fair use of Viacom's works, it may make more sense to go to court to assert your rights. More information about your options is available at the Fair Use Network.
Has your video been removed from YouTube based on a bogus Viacom takedown? If so, contact firstname.lastname@example.org --we may be able to help you directly or help find another lawyer who can. In this situation, as in so many others, EFF will work to make sure that copyright claims don't squelch free speech.
We've put together a video version of this post on YouTube, which you can embed on your website or blog. Check it out, Digg it and spread the word -- the more it rises in YouTube's listings, the more likely it will be seen by users who have received takedowns: