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Abuse the DMCA, Get Sued

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A tip for the uninitiated: you can't use the DMCA to force a takedown of material you do not actually own. In fact, it can get you in legal trouble that is far more serious that your target would face under copyright law.

It seems to me that this is just common sense, but I suppose if you aren't really familiar with how copyright law works, this might fly over your head and get you into some trouble.

Let's say you go on television, it doesn't matter why or what for. Larry King, the local news, whatever. Do you own the copyright? Not even close. Whoever made the video owns the copyright, which would be the network that broadcast the talk show, or the TV station that made the newscast.

People who don't want their pictures or video of them spread around the Internet can use the DMCA to force that material to come down only if they actually own the copyright to that material.

This guy doesn't, now he's being sued for abusing the DMCA.

The latest attempt involves Uri Geller, the purported spoon-bending "psychic" who is trying to suppress a video on YouTube that claims Geller is a fraud and demonstrates sleight-of-hand tricks he could have used. The video was posted by the Rational Response Squad, a group of skeptics who take a scientific approach toward evaluating supernatural claims, and rely in part on YouTube to get the word out. [...]

Geller's U.K. company, Explorologist Ltd., sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube, claiming copyright in a video posted by the squad. It depicted magician James Randi, a prominent skeptic of the supernatural, showing how Geller could have performed "magic" tricks. (Some of his critics go farther, alleging that Geller is little more than a successful con artist.)

YouTube replied by suspending the relevant account.

There was one problem: Geller doesn't seem to own the video. It's nearly 14 minutes long, and Geller's company apparently can claim copyright in only three seconds of it, a brief excerpt that would likely be permitted by U.S. fair use laws.

Service providers such as YouTube aren't allowed to make such distinctions -- they either have to take the material down, or surrender their blanket immunity for the material being on their servers.

This case is another in a growing trend where the EFF has filed a lawsuit over faulty DMCA claims, in what appear to be attempts at punitive punishment.

In a twist that has turned this case from amusing to downright hysterical, Geller has recently sued a critic over the video, defying all reasonable interpretations of copyright law by claiming that the 2-4 seconds of footage that they own found in a 14-minute clip that they do not counts as infringement.

Tip: let lawyers handle this stuff, of you'll just make a damn fool of yourself like Geller has.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.