Matt Hosseinzadeh (AKA Matt Hoss) is easy to mock. The parkour-loving comedian runs a YouTube channel full of misogynistic videos, including "a comedy series about a confident and funny man who picks up women, beds them, and gets into all sorts of crazy trouble". But when two other YouTubers made a video mocking him and included clips of his fictional pickup artistry, Hoss sued them for copyright infringement. This week, Hoss lost.
Image: YouTube / MattHossZone
A New York judge ruled yesterday that the video by Ethan and Hila Klein, the couple Hoss sued who run the popular H3H3 YouTube channel, did not amount to copyright infringement and that their reaction video was considered fair use. Hoss's lawsuit had claimed that the reaction video infringed on his copyright because it contained clips from his video "Bold Guy vs Parkour Girl". Unfortunately for Hoss, criticism counts as fair use even when the critics use clips of the copyrighted work.
"Any review of the Klein video leaves no doubt that it constitutes critical commentary of the Hoss video; there is also no doubt that the Klein video is decidedly not a market substitute for the Hoss video," Judge Katherine B. Forrest wrote in her ruling. "For these and the other reasons set forth below, defendants' use of clips from the Hoss video constitutes fair use as a matter of law."
While this might just seem like a slap fight between two YouTube channels, the ruling does set an important precedent for fair use on YouTube and reaction videos specifically. It declares that, regardless of the platform or the players involved, you can still use copyrighted content in a video as long as that use amounts to criticism. This ruling doesn't necessarily mean that you could post a reaction video that republishes someone else's video in its entirety, but it does provide a point of reference.
Now is a good time to point out that the couple behind the H3H3 channel aren't necessarily angels. They racked up millions of YouTube subscribers by making fun of other YouTubers and generally stirring up crap. And in terms of subscriber base, the H3H3 couple certainly comes off as a big bully. (H3H3 has 4.6 million subscribers, while Matt Hoss has 170,000.) With their strong following, the H3H3 couple also raised over $US100,000 ($126,436) in crowdfunding for their defence. Even big bullies enjoy the benefits of the First Amendment, though.
At the end of the day, you can chalk all this up to YouTube drama goes IRL, to a certain degree. A victory for fair use on the internet, however, is always a big deal in the increasingly murky world of copyright. Good job, Judge Forrest.
You can read the full decision here. And the original H3H3 video that caused all this drama is below: