Playing Fair on YouTube

Nov 12, 2007
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

What happens when you mix political speech, clips of "The Daily Show" and self-styled YouTube video blogs? Last spring Allen Asch found out first hand when Viacom sent him takedown notices for copyright infringement.

After several letters from the ACLU of Northern California and other fair use advocates, Asch's videos are back up and running. Asch's experience highlights the current tension between what constitutes fair use and copyright infringement on videosharing sites like YouTube.

Asch's video blogs cover a broad range of topics, from explanations of the fair use doctrine linked with clips of "The Daily Show" and excerpts of John Stewart Mill's "On Liberty" to challenging Bill O'Reilly's assertions that the ACLU is anti-religion, and generallycommenting on entertainment shows and the media.

The videos illustrate the rationale for the fair use doctrine–to allow limited use of copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism, commentary, parody and education.

The ACLU of Northern California urged Viacom to err on the side of fair use particularly when political speech is concerned and not target videos such as Asch's for takedown. Since the controversy over Asch's videos, Viacom has come forward with a new policy.

The ACLU of Northern California, EFF, and other civil liberties groups have recently released Fair Use Practices for User Generated Video Content to assist content owners and service providers in striking the balance needed to protect free speech.