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Phoenix Back Copyright Reform After Aussie YouTube Takedown Dispute

French indie-pop band Phoenix have released a statement in support of fair use and changes to copyright laws as their Australian distributor Liberation Music agreed to pay damages to a Harvard lecturer, who the label had previously threatened to sue for using a Phoenix song in a YouTube video.

Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig used snippets of the Phoenix song Lisztomania in a lecture about copyright and openness in 2010, titled Open, which was then posted online.

Fairfax Media are reporting that in June 2013, Liberation Music demanded that the YouTube video of the lecture be taken down from the site, on the grounds that it had breached copyright laws. The demand was issued after an automated internet system told the label that their content was being used by another account.

Professor Lessig, who is actually a co-founder of the copyright group Creative Commons, responded to the demand by taking out legal action in the US District Court of Massachusetts, claiming that he had the right to use the music clip under US and Australian fair use provisions.

The case was then settled last Wednesday, 26th February, with Liberation agreeing to pay damages to Professor Lessig and to change its YouTube takedown policy.

Phoenix have now released a statement via their official blog, supporting fair use of their music and encouraging new copyright policies after hearing of Lessig’s legal battles, declaring:

“Not only do we welcome the illustrative use of our music for educational purposes, but, more broadly, we encourage people getting inspired and making their own versions of our songs and videos and posting the result online.

“We absolutely support fair use of our music. And we can only encourage a new copyright policy that protects fair use as much as every creators’ legitimate interests.”

Readers can check out the band’s entire statement below, alongside the clip of Phoenix’s Lisztomania being used alongside dance videos in Lessig’s Open lecture, which has now been re-uploaded to YouTube.

Liberation Music will now not rely solely on the automated system, and will not issue any takedown requests without human review according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who represented Professor Lessig in the case.

Corynne McSherry, the foundation’s intellectual property director, said that too many content owners are issuing takedowns and manipulating content filters without respect for the rights of users. “This fight may be over, but the battle continues until every content owner embraces best practices that protect fair use,” she said.

Liberation Music’s managing director Warren Costello also agreed that the use of the song in the video qualified as fair use under US law and fair dealing under Australian law. He admitted that the takedown notice should never have been issued.

“Upon learning of the mistake we immediately reinstated Professor Lessig’s video, amended our review process and have worked co-operatively with Professor Lessig to resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” Mr Costello said.

Watch: Phoenix’s Lisztomania in Lawrence Lessig’s Open lecture

Phoenix’s full statement in support of Lessig and fair-use:

We support fair use of our music!

We were upset to find out that a lecture by Professor Lawrence Lessig titled ‘Open’ was removed from YouTube without review, under the mistaken belief that it infringed our copyright interests.

This lecture about fair-use included—as examples—bits of spontaneous fan videos using our song “Lisztomania”.

Not only do we welcome the illustrative use of our music for educational purposes, but, more broadly, we encourage people getting inspired and making their own versions of our songs and videos and posting the result online.

One of the great beauties of the digital era is to liberate spontaneous creativity—it might be a chaotic space of free association sometimes but the contemporary experience of digital re-meditation is enormously liberating.

We don’t feel the least alienated by this; appropriation and recontextualization is a long-standing behavior that has just been made easier and more visible by the ubiquity of the internet.

In a few words:

We absolutely support fair use of our music.

And we can only encourage a new copyright policy that protects fair use as much as every creators’ legitimate interests.

Phoenix

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