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NBC U: Copyright Warning Complaint is Frivolous

NBC Universal, one of the strongest voices for intellectual property protection, calls a complaint filed Wednesday by computer companies against the

copyright warning labels on movies

 and other content a waste of time and money..

 "There is nothing unlawful, untruthful, or inaccurate about the warning labels on our movies, which adhere to long accepted legal standards and are nearly identical to the warnings used by some of CCIA’s own members," NBC U said in a statement.

CCIA is the Computer & Communication Industry Association, which includes , which include Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google.
 "Content companies like NBC Universal are working overtime to develop new digital distribution models to reach our audience," NBC U continued. "At a period of such incredible technological development, CCIA could be a serious and constructive participant to assist those efforts and to reduce the tidal wave of wholesale, illegal distribution of copyrighted content. Instead, it apparently prefers to irresponsibly waste taxpayer dollars by filing a frivolous complaint for the sake of little more than publicity.” Among other things, CCIA wants the content creators to spell out in the warnings (including Harcourt, which is co-owned with B&C)  is that there are fair uses for excerpts of their content for news reporting, criticism and educational uses. Michael Graham, an intellectual property attorney and partner with Marshall Gerstein & Borun LLP in Chicago, has problems with that approach. "Because the "fair use" exceptions to infringement are based on case-by-case analysis, suggesting that copying some portion of materials might be permissible fair use opens up a Pandora's Box of possible fair uses," he says.  

The NBC warning cited in the CCIA complaint, which was filed at the Federal Trade Commission, talks about "unauthorized" uses, which would appear to leave room for fair uses if they are authorized under law. Graham says no, that fair use, in intellectual property law, is considered a permissible infringement rather than an authorized use.

CCIA contends the warnings mislead consumers into thinking that they cannot excerpt under the fair use protections. But Graham disagrees. "The current FBI warnings are generally either ignored, overlooked, or made fun of, in part because of the hardline they effect -- which consumers do not recognize as applying to them."