Abusing The DMCA To Take Down Any Content
from the such-a-great-law dept
This has been quite a week for stories about people abusing the DMCA. Earlier, we had the story of a company that was abusing the DMCA to hunt down critics. In that case, they were using the fact that you can use the DMCA to send a subpoena without actually proving there’s any infringing material, and often companies will give up IP address info once they get the subpoena. Now we’ve got two more examples of similar abuses. The first also comes from the EFF who has filed a lawsuit against someone for abusing the DMCA. The person in question apparently did some stuff online to annoy a lot of people, and when others wrote nasty articles about him, he simply filed DMCA complaints to get ISPs to take down the stories — even though there was absolutely no copyright infringement at all. He based the claim on a photo of himself that was from a TV interview he did with Fox News, saying he owned the copyright. Of course, he doesn’t own the copyright (Fox does) and even so, it’s clearly fair use. However, thanks to the “notice & takedown procedure,” ISPs need to takedown the content when they’re notified in order to remain free of liability. That means you can force ISPs to take down just about any content as long as you claim that your copyright material is hosted there. The site who was the victim of these DMCA takedowns had to switch hosting companies and deal with a number of other issues to keep their site up. The lawsuit is to ask for compensation for those troubles, as well as claim that, thanks to the DMCA, his free speech rights were taken away. The site in question, 10ZenMonkeys has its own explanation of the lawsuit.
The second case is somewhat similar, and was pointed out to us in our comments, and involves a case where a company sent a similar takedown notice to YouTube for a bunch of videos that had the tags “florida” and “football.” The company in question, Collegiate Images, handles college media licenses, which apparently include the University of Florida. Beyond the fact that it’s probably perfectly legal to post some of your own home videos or images of a college sporting event, there was another very big problem. One of the videos they sent the notice on had absolutely nothing to do with University of Florida football. It was a video that a guy filmed of a buddy of his “running around… like a goofball.” In other words, Collegiate Images never bothered to actually look at the video and see if it infringed. They just sent takedown notices, and perfectly legitimate content got taken down. The guy this happened to (who wrote the blog post about it linked above) blames YouTube for the mistake — but it’s not their fault. They’re simply following the DMCA notice and takedown procedures to keep them from being liable. The real problem is with both the DMCA and the company filing the questionable takedown notices. Either way, that’s three cases this week alone that have shown how the DMCA is being repeatedly abused to force perfectly legal content offline. And yet, DMCA supporters insist there’s no problem with it at all.