San Francisco - 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
For this release: