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Civil Liberties Groups Drop Viacom Suit

24 Apr, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Citing media giant Viacom Inc.'s “admission of error” in demanding that video-sharing site YouTube remove a parody video of Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report,” two civil liberties groups have dropped their lawsuit.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project last month filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of MoveOn.org and Brave New Films against Viacom (which owns Comedy Central) after the media giant alleged the defendants' non-profit video, “Stop the Falsiness,” infringed upon its copyrights.

The video, which included clips from Colbert's show, was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the comedian's portrayal of the right-wing media and parodied MoveOn's own reputation for political activism, according to the EFF.

The EFF claimed Viacom initially denied sending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to YouTube, which is owned by search behemoth Google Inc., while saying it had no objection to the video.

Viacom later conceded it was the source of the demand and admitted error in taking action against the parody, according to the EFF. The group claimed Viacom does not challenge third-party use of its materials that are “creative, newsworthy or transformative” and are “a limited excerpt for non-commercial purposes.”

The media giant has reportedly said the issue could have been avoided if MoveOn.org and Stanford had contacted it prior to the uploading their video.

The EFF said Viacom had agreed to set up a Web site and email in order to review of any complaint within one business day and reinstate any video if the takedown request was in error.

“If copyright owners are going to be sending hundreds of thousands of DMCA takedown notices, they also have a responsibility to protect the legitimate free speech rights of the citizen creators,” said EFF senior intellectual property lawyer Fred von Lohmann. “By choosing to respect newsworthy and transformative uses of their materials … Viacom has taken important steps toward meeting that responsibility. We hope other media companies will follow Viacom's lead.”

It is not clear how the admission will affect Viacom's ongoing $1 billion copyright infringement suit filed in March against YouTube.

A representative from Viacom was not immediately available fro comment.

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