The latest person to discover how easy it is to abuse U.S. copyright law appears to be Uri Geller, the self-proclaimed "psychic" who has been fooling people about his supernatural powers for decades now. Geller has been exposed as a ridiculous fake time and time again, but he is trying hard to scrub the internet of all that embarrassing evidence so that his current business venture can trick more new suckers.
And United States copyright law is practically eager to aid this huckster in his quest to suppress criticism and victimize the ignorant. Using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Geller has managed to get YouTube to delete several videos that show Geller's deceptions being exposed. Before Geller launched his purge, when you searched YouTube for "Uri Geller" you would immediately discover videos that let you know he is a trickster. But as of this moment, that same search yields mainly uncritical videos.
And it was easy for Geller to turn YouTube into his de facto accomplice.
In fact, in at least one case, Geller's takedown notice caused not only the removal of a piece of criticism, but also the suspension of an entire critic's account. The Rational Response Squad had uploaded a James Randi-hosted video that debunked Geller -- a video whose posting on YouTube had been enthusiastically approved by James Randi. (This is where the video used to be. "Explorologist LTD" is Geller's company. Here is a WMV link to the video.) Despite this fact, YouTube removed the video and punished the RRS by disappearing its entire account of 100 videos, effectively killing this not-for-profit group's successful video outreach efforts in one fell swoop*.
The only bright spot is that Geller's actions to suppress criticism may expose him to legal liability (provided that one of his victims has the resources and will to fight this litigious spoon-bender).
His liability? Geller does not apparently own the copyrights to the videos he targeted. And that could be a problem for him.
The DMCA allows copyright owners to file a "takedown notice" with a service provider such as YouTube, provided that the copyright owner swears under penalty of perjury that he or she owns the copyright in question ("I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner of an exclusive right that is infringed").
It appears that on March 23, Geller or his representative filed with YouTube a series of these DMCA takedown notices, which should have included swearing to the stated facts under penalty of perjury. When internet griefer Michael Crook tried this method of critic suppression, it didn't work out too well for him.
I mean, really not well:
In a March 2007 settlement [with the Electronic Frontier Foundation], Crook agreed to withdraw his DMCA complaints, take a copyright law course, and apologize for interfering with the free speech rights of his targets.
Will Uri Geller similarly be brought to his knees?
To be continued...
*Because the RRS had been the victim of a previous false copyright claim, YouTube considered this one a second and final "strike." RRS leader Brian Sapient told me he now wishes he had taken the trouble to fight that earlier false claim, which also was not made by a legitimate copyright owner. It was just easier to let it go, as the video wasn't that important. It's likely that this happens more often than not with false DMCA claims, which are typically filed by larger entities against smaller ones. The Rational Response Squad is currently going through the counter-notification process and may succeed in getting its account reinstated.