Fair use in question: Music by the French band Phoenix is at the centre of a copyright storm.
An Australian music label has agreed to pay damages to a Harvard law professor after it threatened to sue him for using a popular song in a YouTube video lecture.
Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig used snippets from the song Lisztomania by French indie-pop band Phoenix in a lecture that went online in 2010.
In June last year, Australian label Liberation Music issued a demand that YouTube take down the lecture on the grounds it breached its copyright.
The demand was issued after an automated system flagged that Liberation content had been used on the website.
Professor Lessig, co-founder of the non-profit group Creative Commons, responded by launching legal action in the US District Court in Massachusetts, asserting his right to use the music clip under US and Australian fair use provisions.
The case was settled on Wednesday, with the label agreeing to pay costs and change its YouTube takedown request policies.
Under its previous policy, Liberation allowed a single employee – without proper legal knowledge or even viewing the video in question – to rely on the automated system to threaten a lawsuit.
In future Liberation will not issue takedown requests without human review, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented Professor Lessig in the case.
The foundation's intellectual property director, Corynne McSherry, said too many content owners were issuing takedowns and manipulating content filters without respect for the rights of users.
"This fight may be over, but the battle continues until every content owner embraces best practices that protect fair use," Ms McSherry said.
Liberation Music managing director Warren Costello agreed the use of the song in the video qualified as fair use under US law and fair dealing under Australian law.
He said he regretted that the takedown notice was issued.
"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," Mr Costello said.
The label said it was committed to a new copyright policy that both protected its valid copyright interests and respected fair use and fair dealing.