WordPress A Bit Too Quick In Doing DMCA Takedowns

from the that's-unfortunate dept

It's becoming increasingly common for companies to try to go up the network stream with various takedown messages. Rather than just hitting a website with a takedown over certain content, they'll also hit their ISP and their registrar. What's unfortunate is that these higher level service providers are often less willing to take the time to understand the specifics, and are quick to pull the plug to avoid liability for themselves. With WordPress becoming a larger and larger ISP for many blogs, it's getting a lot more such requests.

It's unfortunate that the company is responding to them in misleading ways. For example, it recently took down some content and blocked the ability to post any new content, based on a DMCA takedown message claiming, incorrectly, that "we were legally required to remove the file from our servers." That's not quite true. First, Wordpress is not legally required to do so. It is true that the company is certainly strongly incentivized to do so, since not doing so could open it up to liability, but that's not the same as saying they're legally required to do this.

However, in this case, the details look even worse. The "content" in question was merely a link from a blog to an unauthorized version of an ebook. The author of the blog, which talks about ebooks, was complaining about certain ebooks not being available:
In a blog post, Ricardo had bemoaned the fact that a book, Ken Follett's 'Fall of Giants,' wasn't available in Spanish on the Kindle. He noted, however, that the publishers of the book didn't mind people converting other formats but presumably to save people the bother of messing with DRM removal, he linked to an already converted copy hosted on a file-hosting service.
The local IP "protection" group posted a comment on the site, demanding he take that down, and when he either didn't notice the comment or didn't realize it was real, they went to WordPress, claiming that he had ignored their takedown request. Furthermore, as the article notes, under Spanish law, a link to infringing content is not, itself, infringing. In the US (where the servers were likely hosted -- so it could have an impact), links are still something of a gray area, unfortunately. Of course, it's rather amusing, as noted in the TorrentFreak article that the very first comment on that particular story complains that "the link doesn't work." So this whole thing may have been over absolutely nothing...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 16th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    F=MA ,... action = reaction

    In physics for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When unconstitutional laws are abused ofteh enough that is when they are struck down. The DMCA take down process is being abused alot more, making it seriously likely it will be removed from the books. Lets hope the abuse continues.

     

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  2.  
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    Adrian Lopez, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 5:32pm

    "It's becoming increasingly common for companies to try to go up the network stream with various takedown messages. Rather than just hitting a website with a takedown over certain content, they'll also hit their ISP and their registrar."

    Are copyright holders allowed to do that in cases where the website in question has a designated DMCA contact? Also, don't DMCA notices have to identify specific infringing content -- something the registrar does not control?

     

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  3.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Nov 16th, 2010 @ 5:37pm

    org vs com

    This is why I use the .org kind of wordpress, not the .com

    I trust it more when I host it myself.
    (well...use another company to host it for me)

     

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  4.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 16th, 2010 @ 5:48pm

    Re:

    "Are copyright holders allowed to do that in cases where the website in question has a designated DMCA contact?"

    Just because they have a contact, doesn't mean they have to have anything resembling a spine, sadly.

    Seriously, a company willing to go to bat over even the most egregious takedowns would win a huge following.

     

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  5.  
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    AJ Morris, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    Automattic not WordPress

    This article is poorly titled. What you are referring to is Automattic, the company behind wordpress.com. WordPress itself is an open-source software project. It would be nice if you would change this since you're putting a bad rap out for WordPress, when it's not really WordPress that's following through the DMCA notices, but Automattic.

     

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  6.  
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    Michael E. Douglas, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    The DMCA take down process is being used a lot more.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    That's the spirit, Mike.

    So are you saying that Matt is a douche for not knowing the how the law works? Because if you are, I want to say that I kinda liked him in his Forbes interview.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHlv6_Anw_8

    Hey, where's your Forbes interview? Post a link.

    Maybe he's just sensitive and freaks out easy. If my dad worked for KBR and Haliburton I would probably be freaked out all the time too.

     

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  8.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 8:41pm

    Re: F=MA ,... action = reaction

    If an equation applied to social conditions, then logically there could be never be a net change.

    Don't know where you get hope that courts will ever curtail this abuse when they've found that corporations are "persons" having more rights than "natural" persons, and now the relatively liberal Souter and O'Connor are gone.

     

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  9.  
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    Rowena Cherry (profile), Nov 16th, 2010 @ 10:40pm

    DMCA Take-downs

    My sympathies are with Ken Follett. I am not clear why people think that it is lawful and legitimate to post links to illegally posted property for the apparent purpose of encouraging others to break the law (albeit civil law).

    Most people would object if a blogger were to post the combination to Mike's locker at work (assuming for the sake of argument that he has one, and there's cool stuff in it).

    The blogger wouldn't be stealing. Those who followed his link to Mike's locker might do so with the intention of stealing.

    Do we have a natural right to steal? Do we have a natural right to encourage others to steal?

    Someone will probably say that downloading an electronic book without paying for it is not, strictly, "stealing". It is merely "copyright infringement". Consider that people like this blogger are "giving away" property that does not belong to them, and that they have no right to give away.

    Why do you think it is acceptable and a natural right to infringe an author's or a musician's copyright?

    Most file hosting sites expressly state that their members may not upload and share files if they do not own the copyright. Only Ken Follett owns the copyright to Ken Follett novels.

    The converted e-book should not have been available to others on the file hosting site. Just because it was, does not make it all right for anyone else to tell others that it is there by posting a link.

    You might argue that Ken Follett makes what you consider to be "enough" from his writing, and that he won't miss the income from one or two illegal downloads of his work, and that most of the people who follow a link to a "free" copy of his novel would not have purchased it anyway.

    According to the law of averages, some would have.

    Moreover, an e-book can be illegally duplicated an infinite number of times, and while one private instance of sharing may not be particularly harmful, when a link is posted on a Tweetable public blog the potential is there for thousands of people to make a copy.

    And they do. I've heard from debut authors whose first novels hardly sold at all... mere dozens, yet in the week the book was released for legal sale, there were thousands of downloads of those books on the pirate sites.

    Piracy may not hurt the big fish authors, but it is devastating the little fish, and piracy begins with ordinary honest people telling one another that it is fine to share links to "freely available" and "complimentary" e-books that are hosted on file-"sharing" sites.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Schinkel, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 10:45pm

    Automattic, not WordPress

    Yes Mike, please retiltle. You are unfortunely giving people who only read tiltes the wrong impression. It's Automattic, not WordPress that is taking these actions. WordPress is just the software, not the company.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Schinkel, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 10:54pm

    Don't post on the web if you don't want to give people access.

    @Rowena Cherry - Your arguments all make sense, except for the fact that posting on the web is an implicit invitation to access. Don't want people to access it? Don't post on the web, simple as that. On the web free access is implied; that's a key aspect of the design of the web. Or make sure a password is required to access it. If I leave my property on the public sidewalk in front of my house then I'm the fool if someone takes it. If you don't like me downloading it, take it off your website; the remedy is completely in your hands.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Schinkel, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 10:54pm

    Don't post on the web if you don't want to give people access.

    @Rowena Cherry - Your arguments all make sense, except for the fact that posting on the web is an implicit invitation to access. Don't want people to access it? Don't post on the web, simple as that. On the web free access is implied; that's a key aspect of the design of the web. Or make sure a password is required to access it. If I leave my property on the public sidewalk in front of my house then I'm the fool if someone takes it. If you don't like me downloading it, take it off your website; the remedy is completely in your hands.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 11:18pm

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    Wow, it's almost like you didn't even bother to read the story.

    Probably because you didn't?

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 12:07am

    Re: Automattic not WordPress

    This article is poorly titled. What you are referring to is Automattic, the company behind wordpress.com.

    Indeed, but most people think of it as Wordpress, so I feel the title is perfectly accurate. If I said Automattic, many people would not understand who that was. I think anyone reading the actual story can understand that this is the hosting side, Wordpress.com

     

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  15.  
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    masquisieras, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 3:00am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    Because a link is not the combination to Mike's locker at work is where that locker is in the office.
    Someone posted Ken Follet book, the link can be used by someone to copy without authorization the book and for Ken Follet to track the copy and try to take it down.
    If you add that the Spanish citizens pay 110 million for the right to make private unauthorized copies from legal copies, where no one knows what a legal copy is, but it's not an original because that is the backup right for which no amount should be paid by Spanish law.
    Plus the DCMA is not a Spanish law so takedowns do not apply.

    You end up that in Spain the linker has no responsibility he is just stating a fact "this file is there".

    In Spain the novel author should not complaint for the pirates sites it should complaint to the collection agencies for it share of this 110 million .

    But of course the collection agencies are well connected, with a lot of lawyers and get to give to a novel author a penny is like trying to get teeth from a turtle.

     

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  16.  
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    innocent bystander pointing at something, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 5:24am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    Oh look - a bank robbery in progress!
    I'd better call 911 ... errr no, bad idea because then I'll be accused of being an accomplice.

     

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  17.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 5:45am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    most of the people who follow a link to a "free" copy of his novel would not have purchased it anyway.

    According to the law of averages, some would have.


    and equally some who download will also pay as well - and the more people download the more people will buy.

    The problem with demanding payment upfront is that it inevitably places other obstacles in the way of potential readers. Those obstacles create far more lost sales than the "piracy" they prevent.

    If you want to know the real statistics on this ask Cory Doctorow.

    Piracy may not hurt the big fish authors, but it is devastating the little fish, and piracy begins with ordinary honest people telling one another that it is fine to share links to "freely available" and "complimentary" e-books that are hosted on file-"sharing" sites.

    The little fish were going nowhere anyway. All those downloads would never have happened if they had to be paid for.
    Complaining about piracy is just an excuse made by those who aren't good enough to build up a fan following of those who actually want to pay....

     

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  18.  
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    jilocasin, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 6:54am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    Hmmm... where to begin;

    No one was stealing anything, you were waiting for someone to say it, so there it is. Copyright infringement _isn't_ stealing.

    The blogger wasn't 'giving away property', since there was no actual property to give. If people actually took _actual_ items from Mike's hypothetical locker, that would be stealing.

    Files are like ideas. Unless someone handed you an actual CD or some other physical medium, no one transfers anything. Think about that for a second. When I 'download' a file; this web page, a copy of Open Office, anything, what _actually_ happens? Does some mystical copy machine in the sky make a copy, chop it into little bits and send them to me? If that was the case, then all I would need is just enough hard drive space to run my OS and web browser. I could go on a downloading spree and notice that my hard drive 'magically' grew to several terabytes. But that's not what happens. What happens is that you download the instructions to use up some of your own memory or hard drive space rearranging it into the same pattern as the program, song, e-book, etc. Computers are the ultimate in green technology. Everything you download, watch, read, create, is made of 100% recycled bits.

    If people went to Mike's hypothetical locker and got instructions on how to make their own copies of everything in it, that would be a closer match. Even then though it falls down. In your case you would be providing third parties with access to Mike's things. This case would be more like Mike providing anyone interested with instructions of how to get their own copy of something of his.

    The person who posted the link, posted it to a file that someone else _wanted_ the world to see.

    It would be like if I went to a bulletin board and posted the recipe for my grand mother's great mystery cookies in the local natural living food store. Then someone else noticed my recipe and posted their own note at the local college library. "Want a really good cookie recipe, there's one posted on the natural living food store's bulletin board".

    A cookie factory wants the entire bulletin board taken down, because when they asked that the "link" to the recipe they felt "infringed" on their "natural right" to bake cookies wasn't removed, they had no other choice.

    Unlike cookies, or books, or music CD's, computers can now share instructions on how other computers can rearrange their own resources to create an exact copy of what ever they have a copy of. Combine this with the ability to store stories, programs, music, video, etc. as the simple rearrangement of ones and zeros and you are where you're at today.

    There is No Natural Right to hoard ideas. If you don't want other people to know about your ideas then don't tell anyone. Previously it was very cumbersome, costly, unwieldy to create copies of ideas. You needed lots of monks with time on their hands. This became lots of printing presses, then lots of record pressing machines. The only way to get a copy was to transcribe it yourself (for books) or pay someone who had the means (industry) to create them. Record companies, book publishers, etc.

    When the recordable audio tape, and VHS, and the Xerox machine were created we started to see things change, stress fractures appeared in the establishment. But these were analog copies, and they required to recipient to purchase, blank tapes (cassettes or VHS) or paper and ink (Xerox copy machines). Now we have 'green' technology, a 500GB hard drive can be had for under $50 US. You can reuse that space for many things, all you need are the instructions on how to rearrange those ones and zeros. Convert some of _your_ hard drive space into a story, read the story. Get tired of it, rearrange it into an collection of songs or a movie, you like that music, save it to a CD-ROM, and reuse that hard drive space for something else.

    People no longer _need_ an industrial gatekeeper to create and disseminate copies of ideas. There was a time when people could only hear about what was in the bible from priests. It was written in a language that most people couldn't read, and even if they could, there weren't that many bibles around. The printing press got copies into the hands of literate people, in languages that they could read themselves. It helped spark the Protestant Reformation (well the abuses of those in power helped as well).

    Here we are at Gutenberg all over again. There is no natural right to ideas, people aren't stealing property (no ones busting into Walmart and making off with an isle worth of CD's). People are only sharing ideas, trading recipes on how to make parts of their own hard drives into copies of what their neighbors hard drive contains.

    Morally there's nothing wrong with this. Financially, its devastating to those people who make large sums of money over controlling the means of duplicating ideas.

    The only reason it's even a little bit illegal is that we are living in a corrupt and bankrupt time. The Golden Rule of 'he who has the gold makes the rules'. The shortsighted greed that lead to our current economic climate, where the rich will get richer, at least until the system collapses.

    Prohibition has shown us that laws that make everyone criminals aren't effective and can't last. We have been making the same mistake with the 'war on drugs', and even worse with the 'war on ideas'. At least with alcohol and drugs, some people didn't partake. Asking people not to partake of sharing ideas is like asking people not to breath. In the end it just can't be done.

    How many people will have their lives ruined until the powers that be realize this?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    How can you call Wordpress an ISP? I seriously doubt Techdirts research sometimes. Wordpress is a software platform and even though you can find Wordpress Hosting, that is done by someone other than Wordpress. Wordpress is software. Please get your facts straight.

     

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  20.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: That's the spirit, Mike.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re:

    http://wordpress.com/

    That was difficult.

     

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  22.  
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    DogBreath, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    The converted e-book should not have been available to others on the file hosting site. Just because it was, does not make it all right for anyone else to tell others that it is there by posting a link.

    Then it's just about time to pull out the DMCA on Google. When the proposed 3-Strikes law for giving out links to copyrighted material takes effect, Google will go down... it will go down Hard.

    It may not be hosting the files, but it damn sure gives you links to them. Bad Google! No No!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    I share an idea with you, we both have the idea. Now I claim that the idea is mine and you can no longer have/use/share/posses my idea.

    Does this make sense to you? Do I have a 'natural right' to demand that you forget things you know and ignore things that are right in front of you?

    IDEAS ARE NOT PROPERTY....

    CALLING IT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DOES NOT MAKE IT PROPERTY....

    NOBODY CAN BE THE SOLE OWNER OF AN IDEA THAT'S BEEN SHARED, IF YOU PUT IT OUT THERE, OTHERS WILL KNOW IT AS WELL. SO THE ONLY IDEAS THAT CAN BE 'OWNED' ARE THE ONES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN SHARED WITH ANYONE (AND CHANCES ARE EVEN IF YOU HAVEN'T SHARED IT, THERE ARE 5-10 OTHER PEOPLE OUT THERE WITH THE EXACT SAME IDEA... OR CLOSE ENOUGH TO THINK IT'S YOUR OWN, YOU ARE NOT THAT SPECIAL, NO MATTER WHAT YOU THINK OF YOURSELF).

     

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  24.  
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    Camisetas de Futbol (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 2:14am

    Camisetas de Futbol Tailandia

    Yo uso el ORG no COM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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