SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit Tuesday against Uri Geller -- the "paranormalist" famous for seemingly bending spoons with his mind -- on behalf of a YouTube critic who was silenced by Geller's baseless copyright claims.
EFF's client, Brian Sapient, belongs to a group called the "Rational Response Squad," which is dedicated to debunking what it calls irrational beliefs. As part of their mission, Sapient and others post videos to YouTube that they say demonstrate this irrationality. One of the videos that Sapient uploaded came from a NOVA program called "Secrets of the Psychics," which challenges the performance techniques of Geller.
Despite the fact that only three seconds of the over thirteen-minute video contain footage allegedly under copyright owned by Geller's corporation Explorogist Ltd. -- a classic fair use of the material for criticism purposes -- Geller filed a takedown demand with YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That violates the DMCA requirement that copyright holders only send takedown notices for infringing content.
"Uri Geller may not like it when people question his paranormal abilities. However, he is not allowed to stifle public criticism by misusing the law," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hoffman. "If the publication of a video does not infringe his copyright, then he cannot block its use -- it's as simple as that."
Because of Geller's unlawful DMCA notice, Sapient's YouTube account was suspended, and his videos were not available for over two weeks. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, EFF asks for damages due to Geller's violation of the DMCA, a declaratory judgment that the NOVA video does not infringe Geller's copyrights, and that Geller be restrained from bringing any further legal action against Sapient in connection to the clip.
"We've seen a rash of people abusing the DMCA lately, attempting to take down legitimate criticism and commentary online," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "To allow thin-skinned public figures like Uri Geller to abuse this system forces critics to remain silent and creates unfair hurdles for free speech to thrive online."
This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford's Fair Use Project to develop a set of "best practices" for proper DMCA takedowns. At EFF's suggestion, media giant Viacom set up an email "hotline" to help users who believe their videos have been improperly ensnared in a takedown campaign.
For the full complaint against Uri Geller and Explorogist Ltd.: www.eff.org/legal/cases/sapient_v_geller
For this release: www.eff.org/news/archives/2007_05.php#005244
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at www.eff.org/.