Friday, May 1, 2009

Perez Hilton, copyright cop? Blogger issues takedown notice over anti-gay-marriage ad

Perez Hilton (né Mario Lavandeira) may be the unlikeliest copyright enforcer on earth. The blogger rose to fame by posting photos of celebrities -- without permission from the copyright owners -- and defending himself from the inevitable lawsuits by claiming that his crude scribbling of penises, cocaine, and semen on the subjects' faces rendered his conduct fair use.

Well, the times they are a changing. Lavandeira, who has morphed into a gay-rights activist, has now issued his own DMCA takedown notice over a TV ad posted to YouTube by the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-same-sex-marriage group. The ad (still available on NOM's web site) focuses on the recent Carrie Prejean/Miss California USA imbroglio, in which Lavandeira played a starring role. The 30-second NOM spot uses about 3 seconds of footage from Lavandeira's video blog where he says of Prejean, "She's a dumb [beep], OK?" As NOM describes its spot:
The ad highlights the efforts of same-sex marriage activists to silence and discredit pro-marriage advocates, calling them "liars," "bigots," and worse.
(There may be both 30-second and 1-minute versions; the image from this site indicates that (at least one) video removed from YouTube was one-minute long. I'll try to nail this down. See update below.)

Fair use? Almost definitely. The use is transformative (for a political purpose), noncommercial, extremely brief, and won't harm the market for the work. I'm all for copyright owners -- even Perez Hilton -- enforcing their copyrights against true infringers who seek to profit or avoid paying legitimate license fees by simply copying others' works. But making bogus claims merely to silence one's political opponents is wrong, and will ultimately harm responsible copyright owners. Lavandeira could well find himself facing another lawsuit, this time under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f). (And no, NOM doesn't seem to be much better than Lavandeira in its copyright practices.)

UPDATE: Patterico is on the case. And he has found and re-posted a copy of the one-minute version of the NOM video that was apparently the actual subject of Perez Hilton's DMCA takedown notice (and that incorporates the same 3 seconds of Hilton that appears in the 30-second version):

Patterico -- just as he did with the Susan Roesgen/CNN video -- is encouraging others to re-post the same video. And the blogger/prosecutor is not about to back down if Hilton sends a takedown notice on his version of the video:
If Hilton sends me a DMCA takedown notice, I’m going to fight it — and I may sue him. I have never seen a clearer example of fair use in my life. The video shows a mere three seconds of Hilton calling Prejean a “dumb bitch” (the word is bleeped out). Later, there is a one-second clip of the same video confined to a small box at the bottom right-hand portion of the screen, as the announcer intones: “They want to silence opposition.” He had no idea how right he was.
Let’s make this guy wish he had never tried to suppress this video.
Patterico spends his days prosecuting some of LA County's worst gang murderers. In a fight with Hilton...well, it wouldn't be much of a fight.

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