Just two days after h3h3Productions won a monumental fair use trial against Matt Hoss (aka Bold Guy), Akilah Hughes has sued fellow YouTuber Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad) over copyright infringement.
Hughes, who produces YouTube videos on the channel “Akilah, Obviously,” claims that Benjamin used her video “We Thought She Would Win” without conforming to U.S. fair use policy. Benjamin re-posted 1:28 minutes of Hughes’s 9:50-minute video about Hillary Clinton on his Minds channel under the title “SJW Levels of Awareness.”
Before re-posting this video on Minds, Benjamin published “SJW Levels of Awareness” on the Sargon of Akkad YouTube page. Hughes forced Benjamin to take this video down with a DMCA strike which Benjamin unsuccessfully fought against.
Hughes is claiming $150,000 in actual damages for this copyright infringement.
The main difference between this case and the h3h3 case is that Benjamin didn’t add any critical commentary to Hughes’s original video. By contrast, h3h3 took portions of Matt Hoss’s content and then added their own commentary throughout the video.
In the h3h3 case, the New York district judge made it clear that not all YouTube reaction videos conform to fair use policy. Reaction videos that don’t transform the original content in any meaningful way could legally be considered copyright infringement.
As mentioned above, Benjamin didn’t actually provide any critical commentary to Hughes’s video. While he gave the short clip he used a satirical title, he didn’t actually intersperse the video with his own comments.
Even YouTubers who are sympathetic to Benjamin’s cause said it will be difficult for him to argue fair use in this trial.
YouTuber MundaneMatt, a well-known friend of Sargon of Akkad, advised Benjamin to settle this case. In his video “Sargon of Akkad being sued for Copyright Infringement,” MundaneMatt said he supports settling this case purely from a “business perspective.”
MundaneMatt is afraid of the ramifications this case might have on other YouTuber content creators if Benjamin loses. In particular, he worries that Benjamin’s case might reverse some of the gains the YouTube community got from the h3h3 trial.
Philip DeFranco, a popular YouTuber who donated $100,000 to help h3h3, said that it’s not totally impossible for Benjamin to claim fair use here. In the video “FAIR USE UNDER ATTACK? Why Controversial New Lawsuit Is Different Than What We’ve Seen Before…,”DeFranco says that Benjamin could claim that he was making a “transformative” change in Hughes’s content by editing the video and changing the title. It’s not clear if this defense will be enough for Sargon to pull off a win, but DeFranco doesn’t think it’s impossible.
In a recent video on Benjamin’s main channel called “My Options: An Update” he appeared ready to fight Hughes’s lawsuit. There’s no official word, however, on what action Benjamin will take.
Akilah Hughes also posted a video about this case on her main YouTube page called “Fair Use Lawsuits, Sargon Ain’t h3h3.” As you’d expect, Hughes defends her position to sue Benjamin in this video. She also said that she’s aware Benjamin has a wife and kids to support. Despite this fact, she still feels Benjamin should have respected fair use policy and expects him to pay for copyright infringement.
For those who don’t already know, Benjamin is a well-known member of the YouTube skeptic community and routinely publishes political videos on his Sargon of Akkad page. Benjamin also has a popular livestream channel called Sargon of Akkad Livestreams. Currently, the Sargon of Akkad channel has 701,698 subscribers.
Akilah Hughes’s YouTube page is branded as a comedy channel. In addition to producing sketch comedy videos, Hughes occasionally produces content on politics, NYC, and fashion. The “Akilah Obviously” channel now has 155,295 subscribers.
For more information on the h3h3 trial, please check out this earlier blog post.
Update, June 2018: Update In Sargon of Akkad v. Akilah Hughes Case: Arguments For Motion To Dismiss
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She totally lost her court case and is now being sued for Sargon’s legal fees.