Group Pays $25K For Wrongful Takedown Of YouTube Clips
The dispute began in December 2007, when YouTube took down a channel created by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, in response to allegations by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that the clips infringed its copyright.
The channel showed footage of actual rodeos, with clips like "Horses Illegally Shocked at 2007 Cheyenne PRCA Rodeo," and "Rodeo Bulls--Killers, or Gentle Giants?" The events were recorded by SHARK members who attended the rodeos and who owned the copyright to the footage. SHARK had hoped to raise money that holiday season via its YouTube channel.
The rodeo group alleged that the clips violated its copyright because it had not authorized SHARK to record the rodeos. But rodeos themselves are not copyrightable.
SHARK protested and YouTube restored its channel--but at the end of the year, after the peak charitable donation period.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the rodeo group on behalf of SHARK for wrongly claiming copyright infringement. The lawsuit alleged that the rodeo organization "sent the notice in order to chill SHARK's efforts to raise public awareness of animal abuse ... and not in order to enforce any perceived copyright interest."
EFF lawyer Corynne McSherry said this case was a clear-cut example of a group using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to squelch critics. "This is a particularly egregious example because the (rodeo group) simply didn't have the copyright to assert in the first place," she said. "It says to organizations: 'You will be held accountable if you use the DMCA process improperly, to silence speech.'"