Sapient v. Geller

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is fighting back against Uri Geller -- the "paranormalist" famous for seemingly bending spoons with his mind -- on behalf of a YouTube critic who was silenced by Geller's baseless copyright claims.

EFF's client, Brian Sapient, belongs to a group called the "Rational Response Squad," which is dedicated to debunking what it calls irrational beliefs. As part of their mission, Sapient and others post videos to YouTube that they say demonstrate this irrationality. One of the videos that Sapient uploaded came from a NOVA program called "Secrets of the Psychics," which challenges the performance techniques of Geller.

Despite the fact that only eight seconds of the over thirteen-minute video contain footage allegedly under copyright owned by Geller's corporation Explorogist Ltd. -- a classic fair use of the material for criticism purposes -- Geller filed a takedown demand with YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That violates the DMCA requirement that copyright holders only send takedown notices for infringing content. Because of Geller's unlawful DMCA notice, Sapient's YouTube account was suspended, and his videos were not available for over two weeks.

On May 8, 2007, EFF filed suit on behalf of Sapient, asking for damages due to Geller's violation of the DMCA, a declaratory judgment that the NOVA video does not infringe Geller's copyrights, and that Geller be restrained from bringing any further legal action against Sapient in connection to the clip.

As Sapient was challenging Geller's meritless claims, Explorologist filed a separate lawsuit against Sapient in Pennsylvania. The suit includes more bogus charges, with many of them based on the assertion that Explorologist has the copyright to eight seconds of the introductory footage in the NOVA video. On June 12, 2007, EFF filed a motion to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit.

Update: Explorologist and Sapient have settled their dispute. As part of the settlement, Explorologist has agreed to license the disputed footage under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, preempting future legal battles over the fair use of the material. A monetary settlement was also reached as part of the agreement.

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