IvyGate blog versus Yale student Aleksey Vayner

October 13, 2006

News:  Amid the hoopla over the YouTube-Google deal this week, another story has caught the interest of some in the blogging community, Yale Daily News, and, now, even tabloids in the UK. 

Apparently, a Yale student named Aleksey Vayner (’07) sent out a 7-minute video of himself to prospective employers, basically, to sell himself.  The video shows Vayner weight lifting, playing tennis, and dancing — all of which he appears to do well — while he gives a voice-over monologue touting his views on how to succeed. 

Later, someone — Vayner alleges someone from IvyGate blog, which “covers news, gossip, sex, sports and more at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale” — posted a copy of the video on YouTube.  YouTube took it down after receiving a complaint from Vayner based on copyright infringement.  But IvyGate blog continues to show the video on its site here and on veoh.  Vayner sent a “cease and desist” letter by email to IvyGate blog, alleging that the blog had infringed his copyright and had also violated his right to privacy by disclosing certain private facts.

IvyGate blog then sought free legal advice from Student Press Law Center and based on that advice concluded that it had a valid fair use defense to show the video (more here).   Meanwhile, IvyGate blog has detailed at length here what it claims are complete misrepresentations and lies by Vayner on his resume.

Analysis:  Where to begin?  First, thanks to these Ivy League college students for providing this good fodder for Friday the 13th.  Let me just say I watched the video.  Although it’s self-indulgent, I did not think it was as bad as I had heard it was (the guy certainly could beat me at tennis, lift way more than I could, and probably outdance me, I hate to admit).  If I were an employer I would laugh at the video and pitch it in the waste basket, but I wouldn’t waste my time thinking about it.  Kids, today.

Then there’s Vayner’s allegation that IvyGate has infringed his copyright and IvyGate’s defense of fair use.  Based on the information reported on IvyGate’s blog and the press articles, I think there’s probably little doubt that Vayner has a copyright in his video.  At to IvyGate’s fair use defense, fair use is judged on a case-by-case, balancing a set of factors, so you can never be too confident how a court will decide.  I don’t know all the facts, but based on what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t necessarily call this one a strong fair use argument.  IvyGate’s theory probably is a journalistic/news reporting type of use.  But you don’t have to show the entire video to report news from it (Just think about the notorious Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape, which was copyrighted).  And, although IvyGate has allegedly exposed a lot of lies in Vayner’s resume, none of them appears to be contained in the video (although further revelations seem possible, given the number of alleged lies already uncovered).

Another issue I’d want to know is whether Vayner somehow consented to further public distributions while sending his video to prospective employers.  In his letter to IvyGate, he does assert that he reserved all rights.

So this is what life at an Ivy League college today is like?  In the end, it was probably good for YouTube to get out of the fray.