Pirates of the paranormal

Under the DMCA, anything seems possible

Remember spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller? The cutlery-abusing 70's icon got bent out of shape recently after a video clip debunking his paranormal abilities surfaced on YouTube. Geller sent a DMCA take-down notice to YouTube, claiming the clip infringed his copyright. YouTube removed the clip and suspended the poster's account. (It's back, though -- and you can watch it here.)

The problem? Even the psychic's own attorney only claims 10 seconds of the 13-minute video infringed on Geller -- a portion any sane person would agree qualifies as fair use. A more likely reason is that Geller is trying to bludgeon his critics into silence. The Electronic Frontier Foundation certainly thinks so; it's suing Geller under a provision of the DMCA that makes it illegal to issue takedowns on stuff you don't actually own. (The EFF won a similar suit against Diebold in September 2004.)

Gee, you'd think he would have seen that coming.

In other DMCA news, Safwat Fahmy, CEO of SafeMedia, has issued a press release decrying the scourge of Internet Piracy. Among other things, Fahmy notes that fileswapping is illegal, sucks bandwidth, saps productivity, exposes your computer to malware, and hurts the "little people," as they say in tinsel town:

"Most artists and actors are not the superstars making millions. Plus there are the sound mixers and engineers, gaffers and best boys, office clerks and production assistants. It's a vast group of behind-the-scenes workers that help bring the final product to completion. These are the people hardest hit when a studio or label is forced to make cuts due to decreased revenues."

Fahmy apparently plans to repeat all this when he testifies before Congress on June 5. Not coincidentally, SafeMedia makes a network appliance that blocks illegal P2P traffic. They call it Clouseau.

You have to wonder about a company that names its flagship product after a bumbling fictional detective. Maybe Peter Sellers will rise from the dead and sue them. Under the DMCA, anything seems possible.

Should Congress be trusted to legislate technology? How about handling sharp objects? Post your responses below or email them to me here. Top tipsters may receive a Cringe bag.

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Robert X. Cringely

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