Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor who developed the Creative Commons alternative to traditional copyright, yesterday sued an Australian music company that got YouTube to block a video of a lecture he gave because it included five seconds of music from one of its artists.
In his suit against Liberation Music, filed yesterday in US District Court, Lessig said the brief segment in question, as part of a lecture he gave in Seoul in 2010, was to show how kids these days are meme'ing it up on the Internet, in this case by performing the roles of particular movie scenes set to the song "Lisztomania."
Lessig said his use of the segment is covered in the U.S. by "fair use," i.e., he was using it to discuss the topic, not to profit off of the music. The complaint continues:
Professor Lessig’s purpose was non-commercial and highly transformative, in that it was entirely different from Phoenix’s original purpose in creating the work. Whereas Phoenix’s original purpose was presumably to entertain music fans, and to make money doing so, Professor Lessig’s purpose was educational, and neither Professor Lessig nor Creative Commons gained any profit from the illustrative use of the clips in question in the "Open" lecture. ...
Professor Lessig's use caused no market harm. Professor Lessig's 49-minute scholarly lecture included only short clips of videos that were set to the song "Lisztomania," with Professor Lessig continuing to lecture over the music. The “Open” lecture is not a market substitute for a sound or video recording of the song “Lisztomania” and the lecture did not harm any market for the song.
Lessig says he had the video of his Seoul lecture posted on June 8 of this year:
On June 30, YouTube sent Professor Lessig an email notifying him that it had removed the video of the "Open" lecture, pursuant to a complaint from Liberation Music that the material was infringing. The email warned Professor Lessig that repeated incidents of copyright infringement could lead to the deletion of his YouTube account and all videos uploaded to the account.
And then, on July 8, he says, Liberation e-mailed him directly, demanding he stop trying to get the video restored or it would sue him.
Lessig is seeking a court order declaring his video does not violate Liberation's copyrights, damages and lawyer's fees.