I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my Internet service cut out from time to time, and I’m strongly considering suing my ISP for periodically violating my right to free expression. Sound absurd? Good. Then, I draw your attention to Terry Hart’s recent update in the case known as Lenz v UMG. What happened was Mrs. Lenz, a grandmother, uploaded a video of her dancing grandchild to YouTube, and an automated system detected the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy” playing the background, which triggered a DMCA takedown notice from Universal Music Group. It was an error — music playing incidentally in the background like that would often be fair use — but I’m happy to report the Lenz clan have suffered no psychological damage stemming from the six-week period when the video was offline. That was six years ago, but as Hart reports, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as the saying goes, is still making a federal case out of it.
The EFF and other forces aligned against artists’ rights like to claim that malicious DMCA notices are rampant, but as Hart has pointed out before, if this were true, why pick a fight over a case as weak as Lenz? Answer: because this isn’t about rampant abuse of DMCA (or certainly about any harm done to Mrs. Lenz), it’s about establishing greater burdens for individual creators to protect their works online. If it weren’t about that, who’s paying EFF’s lawyers to pursue this for all these years? Hint: Not the Lenzes.
“So we can ask two questions. Do we want to see noninfringing content become temporarily inaccessible at certain web sites? Of course not. But, at the same time, is a greater than 99.8% accuracy rate acceptable, especially when you’re dealing with tens of millions of notices a month?”
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