Punishing Corporate Copyright Abusers

Chris Knight says, "Viacom hits me with copyright infringement for posting on YouTube a video that Viacom made by infringing on my own copyright!

Viacom is claiming that I have violated their copyright by posting on YouTube a segment from it's VH1 show Web Junk 2.0... which VH1 produced -- without permission -- from a video that I had originally created. Viacom used my video without permission on their commercial television show, and now says that I am infringing on THEIR copyright for showing the clip of the work that Viacom made in violation of my own copyright!

This looks, if the facts are as Knight represents, like the standard, arrogant big-media goof in the copyright war -- issuing takedown notices that have been poorly researched. It seems reasonable to assume that Viacom will recognize this and back down, especially now that the case is going to get wide publicity. Then again, the entertainment industry is not exactly known for listening to reason.

And when the weight of big corporations is thrown against the little guy, the rule seems to be guilty until proved innocent. And the cost of proving innocence is high. This imbalance cries out for more effective countermeasures to abuse.

There are penalties in copyright law for using takedown notices frivolously (again, this may not be that specific situation). Perhaps this is the kind of case the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) might want to take up. The organization took Diebold, a maker of defective voting machines, to court several years ago for knowingly misrepresenting copyright infringement, and won a judgement against the company.

Slightly off-topic: Does Knight's use of Star Wars imagery in his video have any trademark implications?

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Joe Helfrich

I suspect that the Star Wars imagery could be construed (thinly) as parody, which would protect him--though I'm not certain about rulings on parody and trademark. I also
suspect that Lucas could throw enough lawyers at him to not make it worth his while.

The sad thing though is that I believe Viacom is actually within its legal rights. All works are immediately copyrighted, even derivative works that are infringing on other people's copyright. You may not have the right to your source material, but the creator of that source material doesn't automatically have a right to what you've added to it.

Of course, Viacom is still being stupid here.

Joe Helfrich