Copyright statements that appear at the start of most DVDs and pro sports broadcasts and movies go too far and discourage legal use of the content, the Computer and Communications Industry Association said in a statement Wednesday.
The complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission protests statements used by Major League Baseball, the National Football League and NBC Universal and Dreamworks Animation Inc., among others.
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The complaint asks the FTC to order the companies to stop using current copyright language and launch a marketing campaign to inform consumers of their rights under fair use laws.
NBC Universal said in a statement 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 warnings used by some of CCIA's own members."
A spokeswoman from Major League Baseball declined to comment on the complaint.
Unresolved copyright issues are more important than ever to digital media companies because they could hinder the growth of online video-sharing Web sites like YouTube.com, which Google purchased last year for more than $1.6 billion.
Earlier this year, Viacom (VIA), which owns MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and other cable networks, filed a $1 billion copyright lawsuit against Google, aimed at reducing the widespread posting of video clips by YouTube users.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., says it abides by copyright law and removes illegal clips as soon as it is notified of them. But Viacom and others allege the company's lax enforcement has helped spur traffic and revenue to the YouTube site.
CCIA spokesman Will Rodger said in a statement Wednesday that "the bottom line is that the copyright holder is not the final arbiter of how his work can be used. Copyrights are granted by the federal government and it's 'we the people' who decide where to draw that line between what's legal and what is not."
The FTC though is unlikely to take action against companies named in CCIA's complaint, given the lack of clarity on copyright law on the Internet, law professor Roger Schechter said.
"We're getting into these fights because the law is lagging behind technology," said Schechter, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. "At the end of the day, people are going to use the Internet to clip and quote copyrighted material. And it may be that we need to start looking at very different legal solutions to the ones that are currently in use."