5 Famous Online Copyright Crusaders Who Are Total Hypocrites

#2. Viacom Lays Claim to a County Board of Education Campaign Video

Chris Knight / Viacom / Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

We could fill an entire article -- or book -- with nonsensical YouTube takedown notices by copyright holders (who could forget the infamous case of Universal Music demanding a takedown of some toddlers dancing to a radio playing Prince?). But perhaps no single example best conveys the system's absurdity and hypocrisy like the time Christopher Knight saw a corporate giant use his video and then demand that he take down his copy of their copy of his video. Confused?

Hemera Technologies/Photos.com
"Checkmate."

Well, it started in 2006 when North Carolina politician Christopher Knight became an overnight Internet celebrity thanks to a geeky-as-all-get-out Star Wars-themed campaign commercial:

It became such a big deal that VH1's Web Junk 20 (the Tosh.0 of its day) featured the video on the air:

Pretty sweet for a guy who was just running for a spot on the board of education. So, rather than take offense to the fact that MTV's trashy cousin was using his work for profit, Knight posted their version of his video on his YouTube page, praising the touches of corporate comedy added to his homegrown video sensation. And that's when things got strange.

Not long after posting the Web Junk 20 clip, Knight received a notice from YouTube that, due to a DMCA claim from VH1's parent company, Viacom, the video was taken down. That's right: The video he made now somehow belonged to Viacom, and they were willing to get litigious to make sure it stayed that way. It seems absurd that he even had to remind everyone that he was the one who made the commercial that provided the basis for the entire Web Junk 20 clip in the first place. It seems downright criminal that Viacom acknowledged this point and still insisted that Knight take the video down.

Christopher Knight for School Board
Massive organizations using unreasonable force on plucky upstarts never backfires.

According to Viacom's logic, the fact that they added additional commentary gave them grounds to claim copyright over everything in the Web Junk 20 clip.

In accordance with YouTube guidelines, Knight responded by filing a DMCA counterclaim. This meant that Viacom either had to file an official lawsuit charging Knight with copyright infringement or allow the video to be restored to the lowly county board candidate's YouTube page. After the story began generating negative press for Viacom, they relented and allowed Knight to post the video. How very gracious of them.

#1. The MPAA Is a Serial Copyright Violator

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Motion Picture Association of America has a lot of goddamn nerve. It's so in love with the idea of suing Internet users for downloading movies that it asked the feds to save the 25 petabytes of Megaupload user data compiled while building the case against that site so it can file some lawsuits of its own in the future. Former MPAA head Jack Valenti was fond of saying that there's no such thing as fair use, meaning you don't get to share any movie you own with anyone, ever, without paying, but they have no problem making illegal copies of movies when it serves their needs. For instance, the MPAA was once caught burning illegal copies of the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated to distribute to employees.

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
"It isn't piracy if we don't call it that."

Like we said, a lot of goddamn nerve, and the MPAA's disregard for the same copyright laws it fights so hard to enforce doesn't end with a few illegally copied DVDs. A blogger who wrote his own blogging engine called Forest Blog found that the MPAA was using his work on one of its sites, but had removed any linkbacks or attribution that would indicate where the software they were using came from. The saddest part of that fiasco was that they were totally within their rights to do that if they had simply paid the developer in question a license fee of just $25. The MPAA argued that the site in question wasn't technically public yet (although you could obviously find it with little effort), and that they would have paid up in the event that it went live.

Meanwhile, the MPAA once forged ahead with a $100,000 lawsuit against a man for downloading one movie that it could not even find on any of his four computers. We added that emphasis because fuck these people so hard.

Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
"He mentioned the movie twice on Twitter. I'm ruling that a green light."

And we still aren't done. The MPAA took its copyright watchdogging in a terrifying new direction a few years back when it introduced rootkit software to be installed on college campuses. They claimed that it was merely for each school's own internal data-gathering needs, but privacy experts pointed out that it would also be a great way to allow anyone to spy on your network while hiding the fact that they're doing so.

Thankfully, we never had a chance to find out. Shortly after posting their new weapon of awful online, it was noted that the software was based on a GPL (general public license) version of Linux called Xubuntu. That GPL requires any program built using that code to have its source code released and licensed under the GPL also. The MPAA refused to do that, forcing an Ubuntu developer to send a takedown request to the ISP hosting the shady software.

OpenCage
No one at the MPAA has a large enough beard to properly run Linux.

Not long after that, the link to the software was taken down. Count that as a minor victory, while also assuming that, in the days since this embarrassing incident, the MPAA has probably just found newer and better ways to spy on you.



For more people who probably should've quit while they were ahead, check out 5 People Who Screwed Things Up for Everybody and 6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Retarded) Point.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Worst Snack Slogan of All Time .

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