San Francisco - 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."
A co-founder of the nonprofit Creative Commons and author of numerous books on law and technology, Lessig has played a pivotal role in shaping the debate about copyright in the digital age. In June 2010, Lessig delivered a lecture titled "Open" at a Creative Commons conference in South Korea that included several short clips of amateur dance videos set to the song "Lisztomania" by the French band Phoenix. The lecture, which was later uploaded to YouTube, used the clips to highlight emerging styles of cultural communication on the Internet.
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."
About Prof. Lessig:
Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and founder of Rootstrikers, a network of activists leading the fight against government corruption. He has authored numerous books, including Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress—and a Plan to Stop It, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Free Culture, and Remix.
For the full complaint:
For Liberation Music's email to Prof. Lessig:
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation