Famed “Psychic” Bends Law To Censor Internet Critics

May 9th, 2007 | By | Category: Internet TV, Podcasting Law

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit Tuesday against Uri Geller, a “paranormalist” best known for bending spoons, for bending the law to silence his critics.

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.

Geller filed a takedown demand with YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). According to the EFF, that violates the DMCA requirement that copyright holders only send takedown notices for infringing content.

Because of Geller’s DMCA notice, Sapient’s YouTube account was suspended, and his videos were removed from the site. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, EFF is 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.

“Uri Geller may not like it when people question his paranormal abilities. However, he is not allowed to stifle public criticism by misusing the law,” said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hoffman. “If the publication of a video does not infringe his copyright, then he cannot block its use — it’s as simple as that.”
“We’ve seen a rash of people abusing the DMCA lately, attempting to take down legitimate criticism and commentary online,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. “To allow thin-skinned public figures like Uri Geller to abuse this system forces critics to remain silent and creates unfair hurdles for free speech to thrive online.”

This lawsuit is part of EFF’s ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford’s Fair Use Project to develop a set of “best practices” for proper DMCA takedowns.

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