Law Professor and Record Company Settle on YouTube Video Copyright Lawsuit

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Most people involved in copyright cases aren’t actually copyright attorneys themselves, but recently an attorney and copyright activist was named as the defendant in an infringement case out of Massachusetts.

Australian record company Liberation Music filed a lawsuit against Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig accusing him of copyright infringement for using a song by the Liberation-represented band Phoenix in one of his YouTube videos. Ironically enough, the video showcased one of Lessig’s lectures about the fair use of copyrighted work. A legal doctrine known as fair use entitles people to use clips of certain copyrighted material for purposes of education and satire, among other things.

“If I’m using it for purposes of critique, then I can use if even if I don’t have permission of the original copyright owner,” Lessig said, as reported by NPR.

YouTube took the video down, prompting the law professor to counter-sue the label because of the way they went about notifying him of the alleged infringement: through an automated system.

In filing the suit, Lessig was hoping to send a message that the automated way of relaying alleged violations of copyright is often “used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech,” he said in a statement issued through his attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Lessig, who is vocal in his criticism of these automated notices, hopes his suit will set a precedent that convinces copyright holders to put actual human lawyers in charge of all things copyright-related, rather than send automated takedown messages regarding material a person may be within their rights to use.

NPR quoted Lessig as saying “Too often copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech. I’ve been fighting against that kind of abuse for many years, and I knew I had to stand up for fair use here as well. Hopefully, this lawsuit will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices — or face the consequences.”

Lessig proved triumphant in his battle against the label- the opposing parties recently settled, with Liberation Music agreeing to pay Lessig for any harm caused as a result of the lawsuit/takedown. The label also agreed to amend its policies on issuing takedown notice.