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September 12, 2013- By Steven E. Greer, MD
Under certain circumstances, copyrighted text or video content can be used by others without permission or payment if it falls under the “fair use” laws. Whether “fair use” applies or not is a murky area of law even when applied to traditional broadcast television or mainstream print. When dealing with Internet venues, such as YouTube, the law is untested and still in the Wild West stages.
In August of 2012, this author produced a short one-minute video commentary that was critical of the “Dr. Oz” syndicated broadcast TV show. It was posted on YouTube under the title, “Dr. Oz jumps the shark”, and featured a clip of Dr. Oz interviewing a Long Island psychic as if she were a legitimate medical expert.
We forgot about it. Meanwhile, the clip accrued 74,000 views and came across the radar of lawyers hired by Dr. Oz. The lawyers filed a copyright infringement complaint via YouTube’s internal process. YouTube removed the video after a human assessed the complaint, then issued a warning to us stating that our YouTube channel would be deactivated if another copyright compliant occurred.
This did not sit well with us, and we clicked through all of the obscure steps on YouTube about challenging such copyright complaints. YouTube summarized the concept of “fair use” on the website. Our short use of the hour-long show, which was intended as genuine criticism and news editorial, seemed to meet the textbook definition of “fair use”, so we filed a “counter notification” to contest the charges made by Dr. Oz and have the video replaced.
Two weeks later, YouTube replaced the video and sent an email stating, “In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we’ve completed processing your counter-notification regarding these video(s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-breFsuTW0 This content has been restored unless you have deleted the video(s). Your account will not be penalized.”
The YouTube statement avoided making any legal opinion or official vindication. Of course, there was no apology from the Dr. Oz team for our inconveniences and stress.
There will be more to this story in the national press. Stay tuned.