But that is exactly what Australian record company Liberation Music did when it threatened to sue Lessig, a leading scholar of Internet law and an advocate for fewer copyright restrictions, for allegedly violating its rights by using music from the hit song “Lisztomania” by French pop band Phoenix during a lecture.
Liberation Music claimed to own the license for the 2009 song, which became so popular that fans, college students, and choruses from around the world made their own dance videos to the music and posted them on YouTube, creating something of a global Internet phenomenon.
Lessig used the phenomenon and excerpts from the dance videos in a 2010 lecture that he recorded and also posted to YouTube, prompting the legal warning from Liberation Music.
Now, Lessig is fighting back with his own legal action.
So, an interesting challenge, in that there is, first, the overall “fair use” doctrine — a nice idea, but one that means that a definitive finding of fair use, should there be a disagreement, requires an adjudicated review; second, there is legislation ensuring fair use in academic use, thus taking some of the transactional costs of adjudication off the table; and, third, there is an open question on what happens when one digitizes and distributes academic material containing copyrighted materials whose use in that context would ordinarily be considered to be covered under fair use.
It’s been a challenge for academic institutions moving instruction online, and should be a great fight, since Larry has been passionate about this.
Finally, it’s worth thinking about the distinctions between this approach to tackling copyright injustices and that of Aaron Swartz.
Later: When even John Sununu takes time out from using his guest Tea-Party-rousing-columnist role at the Boston Globe to agree with Larry, you know that Liberation Music has really stepped in it: Music dinosaurs pick a bad fight [pdf]