As part of the Public Interest Law Center's Leaders in Public Interest Series, Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, discussed “Public Interest Cyber-Lawyering on the Electronic Frontier” at a February 23 event co-sponsored by the Information Law Society.
Von Lohmann began his talk by showing three YouTube videos that were removed due to alleged copyright infringement. "It's hard for me to understand how any of those three videos harms the original copyright owner, how it steals any market, how it devalues the work in any commercially noticeable way," said von Lohmann, who proceeded to survey the often confusing and arbitrary criteria for fair-use prosecutions. He described YouTube's content ID tool, which compiles into a database the digital "fingerprints" extracted from copyright owners' submitted media files and then checks YouTube content for fingerprint matches, allowing for automatic blocking of suspect videos. This method, von Lohmann argued, squelches fair-use arguments: "We don't live in a system anymore where copyright owners even bother to have an opinion about videos before they take them down. And the reason for that is because YouTube built this tool for them.... They say, 'Well, we give the copyright owner the choice of what to do,' as though those who design that tool are somehow not responsible when it gets used."
Watch the full recording from this event (57 min):