Liberation Resolves Copyright Issue with Lawrence Lessig, Admit ‘Mistakes’ Were Made

Liberation Music has “amicably resolved” its copyright dispute with Professor Lawrence Lessig, with the Australian independent label admitting it was wrong to hit the academic with a “take-down” notice. The label will also pay compensation and there’s a pledge that an error of this kind would never happen again.

As previously reported, the Creative Commons co-founder launched legal proceedings against Melbourne-based Liberation after the label issued a “take-down” notice to YouTube demanding a video on one of his lectures be removed. The lecture contained the recording of the Phoenix song “Lisztomania,” which Liberation represents in Australia and New Zealand.

EFF, Lawrence Lessig Launch Lawsuit Over Phoenix Video Takedown

The video at the center of the issue is a June 2010 lecture titled “Open,” which the Harvard Law School professor delivered at a Creative Commons conference in South Korea. During the presentation, several short clips from the '80s comedy "The Breakfast Club" play out to “Lisztomania.” 

In a statement, Liberation Music says it agrees that Professor Lessig’s use of “Lisztomania” was both “fair use” under U.S. law and “fair dealing” under Australian law and the label pledges to amend its copyright and YouTube policy to “ensure that mistakes like this will not happen again.”

Liberation’s managing director Warren Costello goes further. “We regret that Liberation issued a take-down notice with respect to Professor Lessig’s video,” he says. “It was removed by a member of our staff without being reviewed and under a misunderstanding of the relevant law. 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.”

Lessig was represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Jones Day.

“Too often, copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech," said Lessig, who serves as the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. "I've been fighting against that kind of abuse for many years, and I knew I had to stand up for fair use here as well. Hopefully this lawsuit and this settlement will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices—or face the consequences."

The settlement requires Liberation Music to pay Lessig for “the harm it caused,” according to the EFF, which announced it was “pleased” to clear up the matter. The amount is confidential under the terms of the settlement, but the EFF says the sum will be dedicated to supporting its work on open access. 

Liberation, a division of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group of Companies, says it’s committed to a “new copyright policy that both protects its valid copyright interests and respects fair use and fair dealing.” 

Australia’s attorney-general George Brandis recently hinted at sweeping changes to copyright enforcement in Australia. The country’s Copyright Act, written in the 1960s, was “overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic,” he has said.