Samsung Attempts Copyright Censorship of Parody Of Their Exploding Galaxy Note 7 Phone

So gamer “HitmanNiko” modified Grand Theft Auto to add in a new weapon: A Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which can be thrown like a grenade. (It replaces a weapon called “the sticky bomb.”) Some folks uploaded videos of themselves using the new weapon, because hell, it’s funny.

And then Samsung used DMCA notices against these videos, in at least one case successfully.

Something like these videos – which combine parody with commentary on a major current news story – are obviously fair use. But a censorship-loving company like Samsung has no reason not to abuse copyright laws in this way. As EFF notes, there’s a possibility of that changing:

If it doesn’t have a viable copyright claim, why did Samsung send DMCA takedown notices? We asked Samsung’s counsel (the notices were sent on Samsung’s behalf by the 900-lawyer firm Paul Hastings LLP) but received no response. It appears that Samsung took the easy path to removing content it did not like by making a copyright claim where none existed. DMCA takedown notices are, by far, the quickest and easiest way to get speech removed from the Internet. That makes them irresistible for companies, individuals, and even governments eager to censor online speech.

DMCA abuse flourishes because, in practice, companies that send improper notices don’t face sufficiently serious consequences. This issue is currently before the Supreme Court in Lenz v. Universal. In that case, EFF represents Stephanie Lenz who posted a short video to YouTube showing her toddler son dancing to a Prince song. After Universal sent a takedown notice, Lenz sued arguing that the video was clearly fair use and  the notice was sent in bad faith. Last year, the Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a takedown notice. Unfortunately, the appeals court also set a very high bar for enforcing that standard. It held that senders of false infringement notices could be excused so long as they subjectively believed that the material was infringing, no matter how unreasonable that belief. Lenz has asked the Supreme Court to review that aspect of the ruling.

In the next week or two, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not it will hear Lenz’s appeal.

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2 Responses to Samsung Attempts Copyright Censorship of Parody Of Their Exploding Galaxy Note 7 Phone

  1. 1
    John W says:

    I recall when the DMCA came out that there was a lot of discussion about this sort of thing — and many many other things associated with that rush job legislation as well. (I say “rush job” because as I remember it was drafted in large part due to the whole music piracy issue and possibly to a Supreme Court decision that favored 2 Live Crew’s use of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.” At least, that’s how I remember it.) A steel manufacturer actually used it against a local band because their name was similar to theirs, so the band dropped one letter from the name, offered that as a solution, and heard nothing further.
    Remember, too, this was passed along with the Telecom Act in the same year and you begin to get something of a disturbing picture of what was going on back then.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    Lawfare. You don’t have to be right if you’ve got a lot of money, you can just bury the people you don’t like in lawyers. Corporations do it, wealthy people do it, governments do it. Sometimes the victims either have more money than the perpetrators thought (e.g., the Duke Lacrosse “Rape” case) or a 3rd party gets involved. It’s an abuse of the legal system (note I’m not calling it the justice system) and there should be penalties.