Not Smart: Warner Music Issues DMCA Takedown On Larry Lessig Presentation

from the this-is-going-to-hurt dept

If there were anyone out there to whom you would not want to send a random takedown notice for an online video, it would probably be Larry Lessig. Given that Lessig has become the public face for those who feel that copyright has been stretched too far, as well as being a founder of Stanford's Fair Use Project, and who's written multiple books on these issues, you would think (just maybe) that any copyright holder would at least think twice before sending a DMCA takedown on a Larry Lessig presentation.

Apparently, you'd be wrong.

Lessig has announced that Warner Music issued a DMCA takedown on one of Lessig's own presentations, in which his use is almost certainly fair use. Lessig, of course, is a lawyer, and a big supporter of fair use, so it's no surprise that he's also said he's going to be fighting this.

The thing that I can't understand is who at Warner Music would decide this was a good idea? We've seen Warner make a number of highly questionable moves over the past six months, but this may be the most incomprehensible. Warner Music may claim it was an accident or that it didn't mean to send the takedown, but that's hard to fathom as well. The DMCA rules are pretty clear, that the filer needs to clearly own the content, and previously lawsuits have said they need to take fair use into account. I'm guessing we haven't heard the end of this yet...

Update: Some people have been asking which Lessig presentation was taken down. It's been reposted elsewhere, so you can check it out, and then explain how Warner Music has any claim to a takedown.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, fair use, larry lessig, takedown
Companies: warner music group


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  1. icon
    Michael Chermside (profile), 29 Apr 2009 @ 8:49pm

    My opinion after viewing the presentation.

    For what it's worth, I DID just view this particular presentation, looking for possible misuses. Although I do not know what particular piece of copyrighted material Warner Music may be objecting to, I noticed there was extensive use throughout the presentation of excerpts and snippets from material. One (or more likely several) of these are likely owned by Warner Music. In each and every case, the excerpts were brief (mostly VERY brief -- rapid presentation of supporting material was used as a rhetorical device). And all were used to illustrate a point; arguable as briefly as would be sufficient to illustrate the point he was making. Thus (considering the 4 factors that define free use):

    (1) The entire presentation is offered freely on the internet; the purpose of the presentation is to educate people on Dr. Lessig's opinion on this subject (about which is an acknowledged expert). To me, that sounds non-commercial and/or educational.

    (2) I don't know the nature of the copyrighted work in question. I expect it is a snippet of a music recording.

    (3) The brief snippets are much shorter than the work as a whole.

    (4) And few are likely to use this presentation as a way of listening to the music (or viewing the video, if that's what's being objected to) because it is an inconvenient form for that purpose and because only brief excerpts are used. I doubt the distribution of this video will harm sales of the music. For some of the pieces used (especially some of the mix videos) it might *aid* sales by pointing them out to people -- but those are probably not what Warner is talking about anyhow.

    So I'd say it is clearly fair use. That's only a personal opinion -- I'm not licensed to practice law.

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