Harvard Law Professor and IP Scholar Files Suit After Receiving DMCA Notice


Lawrence Lessig is very well-known in the legal community. Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, frequently lectures on copyright and technology issues around the world and serves on several organizations focused on expanding laws to allow increased access to creative works. Over 50 of his lectures can be found on YouTube, but one lecture in particular has led to recent litigation.

Lessig gave a lecture titled “Open” at a conference in Seoul, South Korea on June 4, 2010. Within the 49 minute lecture, he showed five clips of amateur music videos ranging from 10 seconds to 47 seconds. Each of the videos featured the song “Lisztomania” performed by a French band, Phoenix.

Lessig received a DMCA takedown notice from Liberation Media, a record company based in Australia, on behalf of Phoenix and the video was removed by YouTube. Owners of copyrighted material can submit takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to internet service providers that are hosting allegedly infringing material. In this instance, Lessig received a notice from YouTube concerning the takedown notice on June 30, 2013, three years after the video was originally posted.

Lessig, represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), filed suit against Liberation Media in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts citing 17 U.S.C. §107 seeking a declaratory judgment stating that the video is protected by the fair use doctrine, injunctive relief from copyright claims by this company related to this video and damages for misrepresentation based on what he claims is the defendant’s “improper assertion of copyright infringement.”

The fair use doctrine can be applied when the following factors are considered: “(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

As of this writing, Liberation Media has not yet filed an answer to the complaint.

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