Lawrence Lessig Files Copyright Suit Over “Bad Faith” DMCA Takedown Notice

Lessig

The District of Massachusetts may be becoming a center for takedown notice jurisprudence.  As we have previously reported, pending before the court is the matter of Tuteur v. Crosley-Corcoran, the outcome of which may determine how much good faith is required by a copyright owner before he or she may issue a takedown notice under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

Now, the same court is entertaining another potentially high-profile takedown case.  On Thursday, August 22, 2013, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig filed a complaint against Australian record label Liberation Music.  Professor Lessig alleges that Liberation is liable under Section 512(f), which creates a cause of action against a person who issues a takedown notice in which he or she knowingly misrepresents that a certain activity is infringing.

The complaint concerns a 2010 lecture in which Professor Lessig discussed cultural developments in the age of the Internet, including by showing clips of the “Lisztomania” copycat video phenomenon, which involved Internet users from around the world posting videos set to the song, “Lisztomania,” by the French band Phoenix. He subsequently uploaded a video of the lecture, including the clips, to YouTube.  Shortly thereafter, Liberation Music claimed that Professor Lessig was violating its copyright in the song and issued a takedown notice. YouTube disabled access to the video.

The complaint alleges that Professor Lessig’s use of the music video clips to describe a cultural phenomenon at an academic lecture was so clearly fair use that Liberation, in issuing the takedown notice, knowingly misrepresented that the lecture was a copyright infringement. Professor Lessig may not be the best person with whom to pick a fair use fight, seeing as he is founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society  and its Fair Use Project.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is backing Professor Lessig in this matter, has set up a web page with more information about the case. The case has been assigned to Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton.

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