Thousands of people including several big-name YouTubers have rallied to support H3H3 Productions’ Ethan and Hila Klein, who are being sued for copyright infringement by Matt Hosseinzadeh (aka “Bold Guy”), proprietor of the MattHossZone channel.
Since the lawsuit came to light, users have ponied up more than $145,000 to help the Kleins battle the lawsuit, illustrating how passionate YouTube creators are when it comes to protecting the right to fair use online.
On April 27, Hosseinzadeh sued the married couple, alleging that a reaction video the NYC duo posted on their YouTube comedy channel mocking a MattHossZone “parkour girl” video represented copyright infringement and “does not constitute a transformative fair use.”
“The heart and soul of this is, like, that he doesn’t like that we made fun of him, and so he’s suing us,” Ethan Klein said in a video Tuesday about the lawsuit. He said the case is set to go to trial, and may end up costing $100,000 in legal fees over two years.
In response, popular YouTube vlogger Philip DeFranco launched a defense fund for H3H3 on GoFundMe. In less than two days it has raised more than $145,000 from over 5,900 people, surpassing the $100,000 goal.
DeFranco said he donated $5,000 to the cause, followed by contributions from YouTube stars including PewDiePie, Markiplier, Jenna Marbles and the Fine Brothers, as well as Markus Persson (aka “Notch”), founder of Mojang, the studio that created Minecraft. “When someone attacks our home, we take up arms,” DeFranco said in a video.
UPDATED, May 31: Hosseinzadeh, who lives in Sherman Oaks, Calif., responded through his attorney that he initially contacted the Kleins “to politely ask them to remove my content from their video,” but that they refused. According to his lawyer, the Kleins’ reaction video used more than 70% of his work “while contributing nothing substantive to it.”
“DeFranco says he set up his fund to support small content creators on YouTube… Did he somehow forget that I’m a content creator?” Hosseinzadeh said in a statement provided to Variety. “Who’s going to stand up for the original content writers, performers, creators, etc.? Now the Kleins are saying that this lawsuit is motivated by hurt feelings. That’s bizarre since their video said nothing but positive things about me and my work. Other sites have been criticizing me for years, so clearly I have nothing against criticism. I do have something against people using so much of my work.”
Disputes over what constitutes “fair use” of content online, and on YouTube in particular, have regularly flared up. Last year a federal appeals ruled that a woman’s YouTube video of her two kids dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was a fair use. In March, Jukin Media settled its copyright-infringement suit against Ray William Johnson’s Equals Three Studios, after a jury in the case found Equals Three’s use of several Jukin YouTube clips were not covered by fair use.
YouTube last fall said in some cases it’s willing to fund the defense of videos targeted by lawsuits that are protected by fair-use provisions of the copyright code. And, responding to creators’ complaints about bogus takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube adopted a policy to let videos targeted by a DMCA claim continue generating ad revenue until the claim is processed.
According to Ethan Klein, Hosseinzadeh first demanded $4,000 from H3H3 to settle the matter — then later asked the couple to simply post a video apologizing and promoting MattHossZone videos — before filing the lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Hosseinzadeh’s attorneys said that he “has passionately invested his time, energy, and occasionally blood into his film projects,” noting that on Aug. 14, 2013, over the coure of six weeks filming the video at the heart of the case, “Mr. Hoss was hospitalized with multiple fractures to his skull, a fractured elbow, a concussion, and facial nerve damage due to blunt force trauma when Mr. Hoss suffered a fall onto concrete while training for the Work’s action sequence.”
Hosseinzadeh is being represented by New York law firm Thompson Bukher. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Pictured above: Hila and Ethan Klein