EFF Sues Viacom To Protect Fair Use, Stop The Falsiness

Mar 25th, 2007 | By | Category: Citizen Media, Podcasting Law, Video, Video Podcasts, Vlogs

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is fighting to protect the free speech rights of MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films after their parody of The Colbert Report was removed from YouTube because of a copyright complaint from media giant Viacom.

Viacom recently asked YouTube to remove 100,000 video clips from Viacom-owned properties, including MTV Networks and BET. Since February, EFF has been looking for examples of videos that were removed from YouTube in error, so that it could sue Viacom.

It found an ideal test case in this video, Stop the Falsiness, created by created by MoveOn and Brave New Films. The video is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert’s portrayal of the right-wing media and also parodies MoveOn’s own reputation for earnest political activism:

The 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.

One Response to “EFF Sues Viacom To Protect Fair Use, Stop The Falsiness”

  1. Eric says:

    Ok, so I agree with the EFF on this one, but I’m not really sure why the video is funny. The folks that made it are parodying a parody… About the only statement it makes about the Colbert Report is that they don’t “get it,” even though I’m sure they do. Which only leads me to say about *this* video… I don’t get it.


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