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Uri Geller bends copyright law with his mind!

As Kevin Drum says, this is yet another reason to hate the DMCA.

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s probably remember a popular psychic named Uri Geller, who was always on TV back then, bending spoons with his brain, correctly guessing the content of people’s doodles and generally blowing the audience’s mind. But who could have guessed that his powers would eventually warp free speech and copyright law in the 21st century?

Geller got rich insisting that his supernatural abilities were real, so a number of magicians and skeptics — most notably James “The Amazing” Randi — mounted a campaign to discredit the performer. Randi exposed Geller during numerous TV appearances, demonstrating that his mental feats were nothing more than trickery. These old clips, including a NOVA program called “Secrets of the Psychics,” have recently begun appearing on YouTube and other video-sharing websites.

This has gotten the alleged psychic, well, all bent out of shape.

Over the last year, he and his business associate have successfully removed many of these clips from the Web by charging that they violate his copyrights. In the 13-minute NOVA program, Geller only claims ownership of eight seconds, yet that was enough for him to file a “takedown” demand with YouTube, using — or abusing, depending on how you view it — the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

The DMCA protects sites like YouTube from copyright infringement claims if, and only if, they quickly comply with takedown requests from copyright holders. These sites have an itchy trigger finger when pressured, often not even asking for proof of ownership. The NOVA program most certainly isn’t owned by Geller, nor has he provided proof that he controls the eight seconds in question. He just said that he did.

Using the DMCA, aggressive litigants like Geller and such copyright-hoarding companies as Viacom and Disney can simply make your work disappear if they do not like what you have to say, something that was much more difficult in the pre-digital world.

I know it’s naive of me to even ask the question, but if we get a Democrat in the White House to go along with the presumed Democratic House and Senate, can we please fix this abomination? The DMCA happened on President Clinton’s watch. Maybe the next President Clinton can atone for that sin. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I can dream, can’t I?)

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