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Truthiness Comes To Viacom

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The irony is so thick, it’s smothering. Viacom, who sued Google for a billion dollars over copyright infringement, is now being sued by MoveOn.org and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for not understanding the very Fair Use principles the network relies on for its own parodies on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

One thing we’ve learned recently is that you just don’t eff with the EFF. Ask Michael Crook. Before this over, Viacom will be bent over a chair, thanking them and asking for another.

A parody developed by MoveOn.org and Brave New Films, giving some light-hearted hell to Stephen Colbert under the slogan "Stop the Falsiness," referring to Colbert’s famous "truthiness" explorations, was forced off YouTube by Viacom.

The media company that owns MTV and Comedy Central, where Colbert’s show airs, claimed copyright infringement and sent the standard DMCA takedown notice among a flurry of others.

Well, MoveOn.org and the EFF have put Viacom on notice that the parody falls under Fair Use, and is not covered under the DMCA.

"Former Senator George Allen learned the hard way that online video is revolutionizing our political discourse and giving the little guy with an audience of millions – followers of the 2008 presidential campaign were reminded of that again in recent days," said Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org’s Civic Action Executive Director.

"With this lawsuit, we are making clear that corporations like Viacom must not be allowed to muzzle independent video creators and censor their free speech."

The two organizations called Viacom’s approach to DMCA enforcement a "shoot first, ask questions later" one, and an assault on the free speech rights of online artists and critics.

"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."

The suit calls for a declaratory judgment that "Stop the Falsiness" does not infringe on  Viacom’s copyrights, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Viacom from bringing claims associated with the video.

This may be a long way to go to prove a point, but we know that after the punishment inflicted on Michael Crook for his own DMCA abuse, the EFF is hell-bent on making sure it doesn’t happen again. After all, online media is the most powerful voice citizens have had in human history. Would you let somebody take it away?

"Online sites like YouTube have revolutionized political expression and can give the little guy an audience of millions for a political point of view," said Pariser. "An entertainment powerhouse like Viacom must not be allowed to muzzle independent video creators and their free speech.

"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."

Truthiness Comes To Viacom
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  • no apologist

    Prediction,this case is gone in the blink of an eye. Obviously this takedown was a mistake . . colateral damage . . .unfortunate yes. Why do I say this, well the fact is (I say this as an Avatar fan) there are literally hundreds of fanvid clips on Youtube that use Viacom content that simply have been untouched. Ditto for Danny Phantom fanvids and countless video music mashups. I wonder if EFF or MoveOn.org actually sent a DMCA counter notice that Viacom refused to address or if they just went straight to the press release and law suit route.