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Uri and YouTube

‘Spoon-bender’ Uri Geller has found himself at the center of an Internet controversy, after contacting YouTube to take down a clip – featuring James ‘The Amazing’ Randi debunking his ‘powers’ – which he says infringes his copyright by including footage which belongs to him. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is backing the YouTube poster of the video (‘Brian Sapient’, a pseudonym used by a member of the debunking group Rational Response Squad), and has filed a lawsuit against Geller for misuse of the DMCA (Digital Management Copyright Act), asking for payment of damages and a judgement on the copyright status of the video, due to the fact that Geller is not the copyright holder on the complete video, only one small part.

With most stories circulating on the Internet referring to the clip as being 3 seconds long (based on the EFF lawsuit filing), Geller’s lawyers have issued a press release in which they claim the clip is actually ten seconds long – which could be an important difference, in terms of copyright coverage of ‘fair use’ (interestingly, some stories have now changed their coverage to ‘more like 5 or 6 seconds’, but it is obviously 9 or 10 seconds if you watch the clip).

No matter what the outcome though, the result is a PR victory for skeptics such as Randi and the RRS. The publicity from the controversy has ensured even more people have seen the clip, and Geller comes across as a bully (and Randi portrays him as a fraud to boot). On the other hand, the EFF filing (and news stories across the web) stating that the offending clip was only 3 seconds in length (presumably the EFF took the word of Sapient?) is patently incorrect, and one can only wonder how a court will react to that issue – but which just goes to show more than anything, you should be skeptical of *everyone*, not just those claiming paranormal powers.

  1. It’s bad for everyone involved
    I have to agree, Greg. When I first read about this, my first reaction was bitter disappointment in Uri Geller. It makes Geller look like he has something to hide — and perhaps he does? That disappoints me the most, because an honest man wouldn’t be worried about Sapient’s videos, and it looks very much like Geller has been exposed as a fraud.

    The mainstream media will gloss over Sapient’s “3 second” lie and completely focus on Uri Geller — sensationalism sells. I hope it’s brought up in court, because after watching the video, it’s obvious Uri Geller’s piece lasts for almost 10 seconds. Bah, it pains me to see the smug smile on Randi’s face.

    What disappoints me the most though is that Geller’s lawsuit makes everyone involved in psychic and paranormal phenomena look bad. It also has dire repercussions for serious research into psychic abilities. The damage may be irreversible.

    It’s similar to the lawsuit filed by the guild of magicians against two men (stage magicians themselves) who made a television show exposing how big acts such as David Copperfield perform their tricks. But I suspect the guild’s furious indignation was all about protecting their income (people won’t go to their shows if they know how the tricks are performed), rather than preserving the allure of Mystery.

    1. Especially Sceptics
      I like the comment about being sceptical of everyone, Greg. I’ve known many a sceptic seem to give a valid debunking of an event only to discover that they’ve missed out vital elements of the case.
      I’m not saying they’re being deceitful. Rather, reductionism limits where you look for evidence and validation. If something doesn’t enter their paradigm, they don’t see it – literally.
      Is this proof of the paranormal in itself?

      I’m certain of only one thing. Nothing is certain.

      Anthony North

      1. To those who watch
        Very much agreed on that point, and another certainty: the time-fractured tunnelvision of television is powerful magick in itself, able to bend the spoons of most men’s reason.

        I haven’t seen the clip, I have no pressing need to see it, but I do know that if any clip gets reframed, you can editorially make it say anything you want; Michael Moore is living pro-proof of that. Given the hoopla, and whatever it shows or however embarrassing it may come across, I think its pretty easy to see why Geller would want it pulled back into his discretion. Mr Geller is, let’s remember, not a politician and not a Royal (and I have my qualms about paparazzi abuses there too) and were it you or I caught in a moment of stupidity now being blazened across CNN, I think we might view his actions a little differently.

        And even if spoonbending is real, it is still a trick. Learning the mechanics of that magic is no more useful to decoding Uri Geller than studying the digestive tract of Mr Randi to make sense of his brand of persuasion. Tricks are the pyrotechnics, toys to capture the attention of the Hobbits so you can teach them something real; the real magick is only in whether or not you can win the war.

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