Free Speech Battle Over Online Parody of 'Colbert Report'
MoveOn, Brave New Films Sue Viacom For Illegal Takedown of YouTube Video
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal court today to protect the free speech rights of MoveOn.org 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.
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.
"Our clients' video is an act of free speech and a fair use of 'Colbert Report' clips," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Viacom knows this -- it's the same kind of fair use that 'The Colbert Report' and 'The Daily Show' rely upon every night as they parody other channels' news coverage."
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a mere allegation of copyright infringement on the Internet can result in content removal, silencing a creator before any misuse is proven. This "shoot first, ask questions later" system can silence online artists and critics, creating unfair hurdles to free speech.
"Online sites like YouTube have revolutionized political expression and can give the little guy an audience of millions for a political point of view. An entertainment powerhouse like Viacom must not be allowed to muzzle independent video creators and their free speech," said Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Copyright owners need to double-check their claims and think about free speech rights before erasing political content from sites like YouTube and misusing the DMCA."
The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that "Stop the Falsiness" does not infringe any Viacom copyright, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Viacom from bringing any more copyright claims in connection with the video. EFF is working with Stanford's Center for Internet and Society in this case.
For more on the lawsuit:
To watch "Stop the Falsiness":
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Trevor Fitzgibbon or Alex Howe