Saturday, October 18, 2008

Brave New Films sues Michael Savage over YouTube takedown

Los Angeles Times

04:42 PM PT, Oct 10 2008

Brave New Films, the Web video production company run by liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald ("Outfoxed," Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price"), is suing conservative talk-show host Michael Savage in a copyright dispute that hinges on the takedown of a one-minute-long YouTube video.

The video called "Michael Savage Hates Muslims" (and still available here) features a photo of Savage, along with a short audio excerpt from the "Savage Nation" program, in which Savage makes clear his disdain for Muslims and Islam. "You can take your religion and shove it up your behind," he yells at one point. "I'm sick of you."

Brave New Films has an adversarial history with Savage. The company maintains a site called, which features the "Michael Savage Hates Muslims" video along with links to other inflammatory remarks by the host.

The complaint holds that Talk Radio Network Inc., the Oregon company that syndicates Savage's show, sent a takedown request to YouTube for the video on Oct. 2 -- the night of the vice presidential debate, and a moment of intense interest in online political news. As a result of the network's request, YouTube not only removed the offending video but disabled Brave New Films' YouTube channel completely. Because Brave New Films uses the YouTube player to embed its videos on its own public website, that site suffered as well.

According to YouTube, copyright law requires the company to terminate accounts that repeatedly infringe, and Brave New Films had problems with Viacom last year when they used material from the "Colbert Report." Suspensions can be lifted if one or more of the claims are retracted.

Reached for a comment before the suit was officially filed, Phil Newmark, a producer at Talk Radio Network, said on behalf of Savage, "Michael never sent a complaint to YouTube about anything. This did not come from him in any way, shape or form." Newmark said he had no information about where the complaint originated, but said he would contact TRN's chief executive, Mark Masters, to inquire. TRN is also named in the suit.

Brave New Films' channel is No. 71 of all time among YouTube directors -- a highly competitive category. The company's 300 separate videos have collectively earned 36 million views. Greenwald was able to get his channel reactived by midmorning on Friday, but by then it had missed the big wave of debate-related traffic. Adding to the trouble was that Brave New Films had taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times that morning, while its site was still incapacitated.

Greenwald called the situation, which left most of his company's content "dead" during a time of peak political interest, "incredibly scary and troubling."

"On some level, no matter what the damages are, we can't get back the views of Thursday and the views and impact of Friday, when the New York Times ad came out," he said in a phone interview.

The lawsuit, brought by Brave New Films with attorneys from Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, asks that the court declare that the Savage video was a so-called fair use of the material, rather than a copyright infringement. The suit also seeks damages to compensate for "harm to [Brave New Films'] free speech rights and the visibility Brave New Films had worked so hard to achieve."

In 2007, Savage sued the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations over its use of the very same audio excerpt in a similar video, claiming copyright infringement. The court dismissed the case entirely, concluding that the CAIR's repurposing of the audio was fair use.

Powered by FeedBurner

No comments: