Recently, a federal judge ruled that content owners are liable for DMCA takedown requests made against videos that are fair use. In other words, copyright holders can be sued if they issue wrongful takedown requests against videos that are considered fair use (for example, Go Army: Bad Guys).
Ever since YouTube started automatically scanning for copyrighted material, I’ve been worried about the implications for fair use and remix video. Here’s how it works: Copyright holders register audio and video signatures of their copyrighted material. YouTube scans their library and sends automatic notifications whenever they find a match, with the option to file a takedown, to copyright holders. This system makes it very easy for copyright holders to serve takedown notices for lots of videos at once, even when some may clearly be protected by fair use.
This new ruling makes it more dangerous for companies to wantonly take videos down without first verifying that they are actually infringing copyrights (which fair use doesn’t). This protects a wide range of remix, criticism, and parody videos that may incorporate pieces of copyrighted materials. If you’re interested in fair use and its limits, check out the wikipedia entry AND American U’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video.
Note/Update: This ruling was a motion to dismiss which was handed down by a lower federal court. While it does set a great precedent, it’s not a ruling that must be enforced by other courts.