RealTime IT News

FTC Fields Fair-Use Complaint

Enough with the bright red FBI warnings at the beginning of movies and legal disclaimers from announcers at the end of ballgames, an organization including members such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo declared today.

That organization, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), today announced it filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint on behalf of consumers against Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), NBC/Universal and several other corporations.

In the complaint, which is part of the CCIA’s newly sponsored DefendFairUse.org initiative, the CCIA alleges that those corporations have misled consumers for years, often misrepresenting their rights through deceptive and threatening statements.

“Every one of us has seen or heard that copyright warning at the beginning of a sports game, DVD or book,” CCIA President and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. “These corporations use these warnings not to educate their consumers, but to intimidate them.”

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told internetnews.com that the MLB was still reviewing the complaint and could not comment further. The NFL did not respond to requests for comment.

In an e-mail, an NBC Universal spokesperson told internetnews.com there is nothing "unlawful, untruthful, or inaccurate" about the warning labels on NBC/Universal movies, adding that those warning labels adhere to "long accepted legal standards."

But Brian Banner, an attorney with Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck who specializes in copyright counseling, told internetnews.com he's not convinced that such standards should be so accepted.

He said the companies named in the CCIA complaint often word their warnings with "chilling" language that frightens consumers away from re-using copyrighted content in legal, "fair use" manners, such as uploading small clips to video-sharing sites on the Internet for purposes of commentary.

Banner said the content owners are only giving "three-quarters of the entire legal picture."

Ironically, some CCIA members use the same type of stern, "chilling" language in their own warnings against copyright infringement.

One industry source familiar with the content owners' strategy told internetnews.com that a dialogue box in Microsoft Outlook contains language remarkably similar to the type at the crux of the CCIA's complaint.

The warning in Microsoft Outlook reads, "unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program or any portion of it may result in severe civil and criminal penalties and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law."

The industry source laughed at CCIA's complaint.

"This is frivolous. This isn't something the FTC is going to take seriously."