YouTubers Ethan and Hila Klein win ‘landmark’ fair-use lawsuit

Popular YouTubers Ethan and Hila Klein won a lawsuit filed by another YouTuber they parodied, potentially setting a legal precedent for the right to fair use in video criticisms.

After 17 months of in-court fighting, the husband-and-wife vloggers, who work under the name “h3h3Productions,” made a video celebrating the lawsuit on Thursday. The Kleins were sued for copyright infringement and misrepresentations in their counter-takedown notice in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and defamation by fellow vlogger Matt Hosseinzadeh, also known as “Matt Hoss.”

Hosseinzadeh sued the Kleins last year for a reaction video they made mocking him. Hosseinzadeh’s initial suit focused on the fact that the Kleins used clips of his video and spliced them into their mock video without his consent.

“Through all the grief, all the drama, now I’m happy we did this,” said Ethan Klein. “This is a landmark case. Not just for us. The wording that the judge put into the opinion is going to strengthen the case of fair use across YouTube.”

The judge, New York District Judge Katherine Forrest, wrote in her opinion that the claims of copyright infringement were not valid because the clips used were “plainly necessary.”

“Without using actual clips, the commentary and critique here would lose context and utility,” wrote Forrest. “This factor is therefore neutral—a great deal of plaintiff’s work was copied, but such copying was plainly necessary to the commentary and critique.”

Despite siding with the Kleins in their right to fair use, Forrest said her ruling does not blanket all reaction videos.

“Some reaction videos, like the Klein video, intersperse short segments of another’s work with criticism and commentary, while others are more akin to a group viewing session without commentary,” wrote Forrest. “Accordingly, the Court is not ruling here that all ‘reaction videos’ constitute fair use.”

Forrest also quickly dismissed the DMCA violation and defamation claims proposed by Hosseinzadeh.

The YouTube celebrity community rallied around the Kleins after they were sued by Hosseinzadeh, raising more than $170,000 for legal fees. After the Kleins announced victory, many YouTubers celebrated on social media.

On Reddit’s video subreddit, the Klein’s victory video drew more than 4,000 comments and 80,000 “upvotes.”


Above: Screen grab from the Kleins’ YouTube video. 


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