After suits, Phoenix backs fair use and copyright law changes

Phoenix, with lead singer Thomas Mars, right, headlined on the main stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival recently.
(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

Back in 2010, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig gave a lecture on copyright law. Speaking at a conference for the organization Creative Commons, he used YouTube clips of fans dancing to Phoenix’s song “Lisztomania” as an example of proper “fair use” principles. He later uploaded the full lecture, which included the clips, to YouTube.

Liberation Music, the firm that licenses the Phoenix song in Australia and New Zealand, disagreed with Lessig’s take. The firm issued a YouTube takedown order, asking that the lecture video be removed, and later threatened their own lawsuit against Lessig.

As perhaps was to be expected when one sues a law professor, Lessig and the Electronic Frontier Foundation countersued for “misusing copyright law.”

PHOTOS: 2013’s year of controversial rap lyrics


The flurry of suits finally came to an end this week, according to Billboard, after Liberation admitted being in the wrong and would pay compensation associated with the cases.

“We regret that Liberation issued a take-down notice with respect to Professor Lessig’s video,” said Liberation’s managing director Warren Costello in a statement to Billboard. “It was removed by a member of our staff without being reviewed and under a misunderstanding of the relevant law. Upon learning of the mistake we immediately reinstated Professor Lessig’s video, amended our review process and have worked cooperatively with Professor Lessig to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”

One voice that hasn’t been heard from in all of this? Phoenix. It turns out the band is just fine with fan-dancing videos set to their songs. The band posted the following statement (via Pitchfork) on its official blog:

We support fair use of our music!

We were upset to find out that a lecture by Professor Lawrence Lessig titled ‘Open’ was removed from YouTube without review, under the mistaken belief that it infringed our copyright interests.
This lecture about fair-use included—as examples—bits of spontaneous fan videos using our song “Lisztomania”.
Not only do we welcome the illustrative use of our music for educational purposes, but, more broadly, we encourage people getting inspired and making their own versions of our songs and videos and posting the result online.
One of the great beauties of the digital era is to liberate spontaneous creativity—it might be a chaotic space of free association sometimes but the contemporary experience of digital re-meditation is enormously liberating.
We don’t feel the least alienated by this; appropriation and recontextualization is a long-standing behavior that has just been made easier and more visible by the ubiquity of the internet.
In a few words:
We absolutely support fair use of our music.
And we can only encourage a new copyright policy that protects fair use as much as every creators’ legitimate interests.

Watch the Lessig lecture video below, and feel free to make your own with Phoenix’s blessing.



Listen: Coldplay slinks back in woozy new song ‘Midnight’

KISS off for Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony performance

Beatles’ ‘Revolver,’ ‘Abbey Road’ live for autism benefit Saturday