Thursday, July 20, 2006
Reporter Robert Tur has sued YouTube in federal court for infringing the copyright to the video he filmed of the 1992 assault on Reginald Denny. He claims the video was uploaded to YouTube without his permission. YouTube responded that when it received notice of Tur's complaint it immediately removed the video, just as it promises to do on its pages. An attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation commented that YouTube and other service providers are not required to monitor user behavior. YouTube is claiming immunity under the DMCA, so that Tur and other copyright holders would have to track down and sue the posters. Depending on the outcome of Tur's lawsuit, we may see many more such proceedings. In trying to protect his rights, Tur had previously sued Reuters for using his video.
I decided to check out YouTube for myself. I searched for the names of celebrities, and found many copyrighted clips, tagged with the screen names of the folks who uploaded the clips and some information about the clips themselves (sometimes copied from what seems to be publicity from the shows). In my short investigation I found that users routinely uploaded several clips from the same program, for example. It's obvious that many of these people are fans, and think they are simply sharing their favorite moments with Captain Kirk, Criss Angel, and Kenny Chesney. Fair use? I did see at least one angry user comment aimed at YouTube, after he posted only audio tracks and offered video via email and apparently was told to desist. He also claimed that this seemed to be a case of selective enforcement, and threatened whoever "outed" him to YouTube. He may have thought he was getting around the copyright problem by offering to provide other users with copies of the episode of this particular show via mail or on his website or through another service rather than making it freely available on YouTube.