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Friday, November 09, 2007

How in the world did I get associated with The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince?

Click here for "The Home Video Prince Doesn't Want You To See", a story on the ABC News website. It's about Prince, AKA The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, scouring the Internet for "copyright infringement". The Lenzes, a family in Pennsylvania, had a video of their 18-month old son Holden on YouTube. The clip is only a few seconds long, but in the background you can hear Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy".

That was plenty enough for Prince to have YouTube yank the family's video.

Well, little Holden's mom Stephanie Lenz fought back and filed a DMCA counter-notification claim through YouTube against Universal Music Publishing Group - which is Prince's label - and their claim of copyright infringement. A few weeks later the video was back up.

And somehow, my similar recent situation with Viacom was brought into the discussion...

Caught to some extent in the middle of the takedown notice wars, (YouTube spokesman Ricardo) Reyes declined to address the Prince controversy directly, but said YouTube had been down this road before.

He cited the case of a North Carolina school board council candidate, Christopher Knight, who produced a daffy commercial in which he donned a "Star Wars"-like light saber and promised to protect the school district's students from a metaphorical Death Star.

The VH1 cable television show "Best Week Ever," which highlights amusing online content, featured a clip of the video on their show.

Knight "thought that was so cool he put up the VH1 clip up on his channel on YouTube,'' Reyes said. "And VH1 sent us a take down notice." (To view Knight's video, go to YouTube and search "Christopher Knight.")

If you go to this link on ABC News' website you can watch the televised news report about the Lenz's situation, and about halfway through they play the clip of my school board commercial on VH1!

Okay, that's... kinda... strange to be brought up in an article about Prince (never thought that would ever happen). But seriously folks: after what I went through with Viacom, and now what the Lenzes have had to put up with because of Prince's over-zealousness about his image (anyone else remember the thing about his bodyguards back in the 80s?), this is extremely frustrating to read about, to say nothing of how ridiculous this entire situation with DMCA abuse has become.

Do you realize that per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that every video on YouTube could be simultaneously claimed as "infringing copyright" and YouTube would have no legal choice but to pull all of them, without considering the facts of the matter in any individual case of infringement claim?

What if one political candidate did not like the YouTube-hosted videos that are favorable toward an opposing candidate, and filed DMCA claims forcing YouTube to remove all of those videos? YouTube would legally be forced to comply. And the candidate who had his videos removed, or his supporters, would have to spend weeks filing DMCA counter-notifications back with YouTube to have the clips restored.

In my mind, it's not a matter of "if" this is going to eventually happen, under the DMCA, but "when".

If this ever does happen to you, and you want to know how I was able to contest Viacom's taking-down of my own video, here's the full text of my DMCA counter-notification claim, along with all the associated correspondence that happened between YouTube and myself. This is absolutely the biggest arrow you will have in your quiver, if you ever get hit with a DMCA removal.

By the way, Stephanie Lenz - with help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (a very good bunch of folks they are and I still cannot thank E.F.F. enough for how they helped me out) - is currently taking Universal to court over this. So I suppose it's possible that we might see some legal re-interpretation of this nonsense at some point. Let us hope so.