Tough To Punish Those Who File Bogus DMCA Takedowns
from the little-punishment dept
We all know that it’s quite common for the DMCA takedown process to be abused to suppress content that the takedown sender did not hold the right to, or which was clearly covered by fair use. Technically, the DMCA has section (f) which makes the notice issuer liable for misrepresentations, and could force them to pay legal fees. But it’s difficult to think of many cases where this has been actually used successfully. Often, those caught abusing the DMCA just say “sorry, it was a mistake” and get away with it. Funny, of course, that the same doesn’t work in the other direction for those caught infringing on copyrights under the DMCA. Say “sorry, it was a mistake” and you still might owe thousands of dollars.
Eric Goldman highlights a case where an ISP tried to use section (f) to go after a bunch of folks who issued questionable DMCA takedowns that were clearly designed to harass a couple of websites (and, at one point, were used to try to take down the entire ISP). The details are a bit convoluted, but basically, a group of people critical of what was being said on a website issued a series of DMCA takedowns to keep the site down every time it came back up following a counternotice. This seems like a perfect case where the takedown issuers should be hit with sanctions of some sort, but the case was dismissed on procedural grounds instead, which seem to be based on a misunderstanding of the DMCA itself.
But, more important is how this case demonstrates how the DMCA is abused not to prevent copyright infringement, but to try to silence speech that someone doesn’t like. We’ve had plenty of discussions about the conflicts between the First Amendment and copyright law, but here is a case where Congress has made a law that is all too often used to stifle speech.