Monday, April 23, 2007

Viacom Admits Errors in Colbert Takedowns

Viacom has settled with the EFF over a lawsuit claiming that Viacom was sending improper takedown notices. In particular, Viacom had a MoveOn.org video parodying The Colbert Report and several politicians removed from YouTube. The EFF promptly sued, charging that Viacom was misusing the DMCA.

In order to prevent errant takedown letters, Viacom says that it will manually review questionable videos and make sure its employees know about fair use and DMCA abuse. The company will also set-up a website and "email hotline" dedicated to complaints about DMCA issues. Not surprisingly, Viacom is spinning this as validation of "the effective processes we have consistently applied."

This seems like a nice touch, Viacom setting up a way for people to complain about erroneous takedowns, but it's also troubling. The DMCA already provides for parties like MoveOn.org to file counter-notices with YouTube if they believe their content is improperly taken down. This settlement appears to avoid that whole process. It seems up to dispute whether this is a boon for the rest of us or a weakening of the DMCA.
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