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Fair use fight: Challenging Universal Music Group

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 9, 2007 05:00 PM

Hot Air and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are challenging copyright law abuse by music giant Universal Music Group–the record company for R&B misogynist Akon. Last week, I noted that UMG forced YouTube to yank our video report criticizing Akon’s onstage antics and vulgar lyrics claiming copyright infringement. The non-profit EFF has agreed to represent Hot Air in contesting the takedown. Here’s the press release:

San Francisco – San Francisco – With the legal backing of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), nationally syndicated columnist and prominent blogger Michelle Malkin has contested music giant Universal Music Group’s (UMG’s) improper attempt to silence her online criticism of one of its artists.

In a recent episode of “Vent with Michelle Malkin” — an irreverent daily video podcast produced by Malkin’s conservative Internet broadcast network “Hot Air” — Malkin criticized Universal hip hop artist Akon, calling him a “misogynist” and his antics “vulgar and degrading.” She supported her criticism with excerpts from Akon’s music videos as well as controversial onstage video footage showing Akon with a teenage girl at a nightclub in Trinidad. Malkin’s accompanying commentary condemned both Akon’s lyrics and his behavior.

On Thursday, May 3 — after Malkin appeared on a nationally syndicated talk radio show to put pressure on Akon’s sponsors — UMG claimed the podcast infringed its copyrights and submitted a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), forcing online video hosting site YouTube to pull the episode down. Yesterday, Malkin filed a counter-notice with YouTube, informing the company that she was legally entitled to distribute her video. Under the DMCA, YouTube can repost Malkin’s video ten days after receiving her counter-notice.

“It is impermissible and irresponsible for copyright holders to use the DMCA as a pretext to squelch criticism,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. “Ms. Malkin had every right under copyright law to criticize UMG and Akon, and to use footage of Akon to emphasize her point. Criticism and commentary are not only the core of fair use, but vital to our traditions of free speech.”

“We believe this is a clear attempt by UMG to hide the truth about Akon and intimidate critics,” said Malkin. “The Hot Air staff and I are grateful for EFF’s willingness to challenge a corporate bully wrapped in the DMCA cloak.”

You can find out more from EFF about copyright/free speech here.

EFF’s “Legal Guide for Blogger”‘s FAQ on Intellectual Property is here.

Stay tuned.

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Related: The heat is on. Nearly a month after it occurred and a day after the videotape was played on The O’Reilly Factor, Akon “apologizes” for the Trinidad incident.

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Previous:

Verizon Wireless ends Akon partnership
Akon’s record company abuses DMCA to stifle criticism on YouTube
Look who’s promoting a vulgar misogynist
Rapper molests girl on stage (graphic warning)

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