Fellow YouTubers advise him to settle the case.
Edited Aug. 30th to add response video by Akilha, Obviously.
Edited Aug. 26th to add a background video on Carl Benjamin’s shut down account New Memedia.
August 26, 2017 – Carl Benjamin is not having a very good week.
In addition to controversy surrounding his appearance at an event for leading online harassment campaigns and endorsements from white supremacists, Benjamin will now have to defend himself in a US court.
On August 25th, the YouTube channel Lawful Masses with Leonard French reported on a lawsuit by Akilah Hughes (of Akilah Hughes, obviously) against Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) for copyright infringement.
Benjamin, a controversial figure supported by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and the English Defence League, is no stranger to copyright filings, as the lawsuit details.
A summary of Hughes’ complaints as read out in the video are as follows:
- Akilah Hughes sued Sargon of Akkad and unnamed ‘John Doe’s for copyright infringement in the US Federal Court Southern District of New York on August 25, 2017.
- Hughes states she uploaded a video she recorded, created and copyrighted (‘We Thought She Would Win’) documenting the 2016 US Presidential election evening.
- Benjamin and the other defendants copied and uploaded wholesale reproductions of Hughes’ original content onto the internet. They continued to display the video after being notified by Hughes it was infringement, and even after the video was removed by YouTube for copyright infringement.
- Due to this, Hughes was forced to file for injunction relief, statutory damages, attorney’s fees and costs for Sargon’s unauthorized use, reproduction, and distribution of her original work.
- Defendants uploaded, copied and presented footage directly from the video as a 1:28 min video with a new title ‘SJW Levels of Awareness‘ (click to watch disputed content). The infringing work provides no additional content, commentary or criticism of the original work, its content or Hughes and contains no additional expression whatsoever. It is a bare, re-titled compilation of Hughes’ copyrighted work without authorization.
- This constitutes blatant and willful copyright infringement.
- Hughes filed a complaint to YouTube under the DCMA and YouTube disabled viewing for the offending work.
- Benjamin contact Hughes on social media and privately seeking a retraction of her notice which she declined. In this exchange Benjamin informed Hughes he’d been through the copyright process with YouTube ‘many times now’. Despite their knowledge the content had been removed, defendants continued engaging in their illicit activities.
- Benjamin uploaded the video to his Twitter account, which was available until his account was shut down (author’s note: over multiple violations of community guidelines and Twitter’s terms and conditions) on or about August 9th.
- On or about Nov 29, 2016 Benjamin submitted a false DMCA counter claim, affirming under penalty of perjury that he had the right to display the content because, among other reasons, it was a fair use and transformative, which according to the complaint is ‘an outright lie’.
- Hughes’ complaint points out that Benjamin swore under penalty of perjury when he submitted his counter claim, and the counter claim contains blatantly inaccurate statements and assertions, thus Benjamin has committed perjury.
The next part of the complaint details how Benjamin was part of several copyright disputes and therefore knew his use of her work did not fall under fair use.
- A June 2015 copyright dispute with The Guardian newspaper is reviewed.
- Benjamin’s channel The New Memedia was terminated in March, 2017 for multiple third-party copyright infringement claims. More information here:
Actual or statutory damages requested
- First claim for relief is for copyright infringement, seeking actual damages and the defendant’s profits OR (at Hughes’ discretion) statutory damages not to exceed $150,000.00 per work.
- Second claim for relief is for DMCA misrepresentation for injuries, costs and attorney’s fees.
- The Prayer for Relief asked that the Court enter an injunction restraining Benjamin and his co-defendants from publishing Hughes’ copyrighted work, to pay Hughes actual or statutory damages of up to $30,000 for each copyrighted work infringed.
- Hughes asks that if the Court finds Benjamin willfully committed copyright infringement Hughes prays for statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed, actual and punitive damages, costs and attorney’s fees and remove all unauthorized reproductions of the work.
In response to comments and questions on social media, Akilah posted a video clarifying the legal basis of her lawsuit, the racial abuse she has received online since filing it, attacks on her appearance and the difference between a recent fair use defense case le(h3h3) and what Benjamin uploaded and called ‘fair use’.
Reactions to the lawsuit from other YouTubers generally conceded that Benjamin did nothing to transform the work in any meaningful way that would allow Benjamin a fair use claim.
Fellow YouTuber MundaneMatt was quick to advise Benjamin that he should settle, calling it a ‘business decision’.
Vee, another YouTuber, posted a video to say Carl Benjamin had not done enough to the video for him to consider it transformative.
The general, non-specialist consensus from YouTubers who deal with copyright and fair use rules every day is that Benjamin has not done enough to transform the video to make a plausible fair use defense.
Legal advice was not the only thing on offer. An anti-feminist posted a video agreeing the work was not fair use, but then bemoaned how terrible it is that a woman who had her intellectual property stolen is able to use the legal system in order to get justice!
Update: Carl Benjamin posted to his Gab account that he will not comment until he has obtained legal advice and that he has been banned from Facebook for violating the Community Standards. This is on top of his permanent Twitter ban for violating the terms of service.