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LOS ANGELES- The creators of videos that have been improperly removed by YouTube and other Internet service providers after allegations of copyright violations are fighting back with a new breed of lawsuits. The suits, many brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), claim that in some cases those complaining of copyright infringement are violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which states that anyone who makes fraudulent copyright claims is liable. Earlier this month, the EFF filed suit against a Connecticut man claiming to own the copyright to the “electric slide” after he requested that YouTube Inc. remove a video depicting the dance. Separately, Viacom Inc. has admitted that 60 of the 100,000 videos the company ordered removed from YouTube in February for copyright infringement should not have been taken down, opening the door to potential litigation. Several other suits have been filed in recent months regarding improper removals. Jason Schultz, staff attorney at the EFF, a nonprofit civil rights group based in San Francisco, said that he anticipated that more lawsuits will be filed in the coming year. “What you’re seeing now is the growing conflict between how easy it is to censor someone using that law and the growth of what’s being called user-generated content on the Internet,” he said. “This conflict will generate some legal disputes within the year.” The chilling effect On March 1, the EFF sued Richard Silver, who requested that YouTube remove a video depicting the electric slide being performed at a concert in January. Machulis v. Silver, No. 3:07-cv-01235 (N.D. Calif.). “It’s a little unclear whether he has any copyright at all,” said Schultz. Silver, reached at his home in Groton, Conn., said, “I contacted YouTube and MySpace and a couple other places that had videos showing the electric slide incorrectly, and I own the copyright to the electric slide,” he said. “So, I filed an action and had them removed.” Viacom, which owns MTV Networks and Nickelodeon Networks, asked YouTube to remove videos that depicted clips of its copyrighted shows and movies. Don Verrilli, a partner in the Washington office of Chicago’s Jenner & Block and outside counsel to Viacom, acknowledged that about 60 of the videos were mistakenly identified as infringing material, but said that most of the videos taken down were copyright-protected and properly removed. But following Viacom’s announcement, EFF’s Web site sought out anyone whose video was wrongfully removed, adding that “we may be able to help you directly or help find another lawyer who can.” Schultz declined comment on any potential lawsuits against Viacom. But John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and a clinical professor at Harvard Law School, said “the chilling effect on these potential fair use cases is substantial.” In November, the EFF sued Michael Crook, the operator of the former www.craigslist-perverts.org, a Web site that posted responses to fake personal ads on the popular site Craigslist Inc. Diehl v. Crook, No. 4:06-cv-06800 (N.D. Calif.). Crook sent hundreds of removal notices to people who posted clips of him during an interview on a Fox News show, Schultz said. Crook said he has settled the case. He said he disagreed with the EFF’s aggressive tactics against removals, but acknowledged he didn’t have the copyright needed to request the removal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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