Twitter Keeps Suspending Accounts Based On Highly Questionable DMCA Claims

from the come-on-twitter,-stand-up-for-your-users dept

Last year, we wrote about how Twitter was receiving a ton of DMCA takedown notices. That seemed pretty strange to us, because with such short messages, there’s little that could be covered by copyright. For the most part, such notices seemed like an abuse of the DMCA, literally claiming that a link to a URL was infringing itself, which is a pretty big stretch. A link by itself hardly passes the inducement test. Twitter, as we noted a year and a half ago, unfortunately, appears to be giving too much credence to such notices — especially in cases where the tweet is a link to a webpage which possibly links to content elsewhere. That’s so far removed, arguing that Twitter is responsible in any way is just ridiculous.

Yet it appears that Twitter hasn’t just kept up this practice, but has made it worse. There was a bit of a fuss among some popular hiphop blogs in the last few days as certain Twitter feeds connected to one such blog disappeared. That is, they didn’t just take down the tweets in question, but flat out suspended the account. RapRadar, whose twitter feeds were impacted, was not at all pleased, posting this complaint on its website:

If you can’t read that, it says:

This lil blue bird keeps fuckin’ with us! First you shut down our @RapRadar account cuz 50 and Em went “Psycho” and last night you wanna pull the plug on @RapRadarDotCom with no fair warning. Man, I thought it was gonna be smooth sailing like Chris Cross after a yellow nigga got verified. The kid @ElliottWilson is creepin’ on 40K followers but you won’t let my company breathe. This damn DMCA ain’t nuthin’ ta f’ wit. For the record: No site has supported the consumption of music legally more than Yeah we’ve provided free streams from day one but no download links unless its a free release. We also link back to iTunes constantly. We play the game the right way and what do we get for it? Shit, I’m not opposed to a lil preferential treatment. Ha! Can we live?

So… at this point, it looks like a totally and completely ridiculous DMCA takedown claim. Let’s connect the dots:

  • DMCA notice goes to Twitter, complaining about a tweet with a link in it
  • Rather than pointing out that a mere link is not infringing, Twitter suspends the account
  • That link doesn’t even link to infringing content. Instead it links to a blog page
  • That blog page doesn’t even link to infringing content. Instead, it links to official free releases, official streams… and iTunes for purchases.

Now, I recognize that Twitter is just playing the legal game here. If it receives a DMCA notice, it goes straight to takedown mode. Thanks to the way the DMCA safe harbors are written, it’s tough not to obey a DMCA takedown notice, because otherwise you face legal liability if there is infringement. But it doesn’t mean you have to take down the content. In bogus situations you can say so and refuse to take down the content (something that we’ve done in the past).

I reached out to Twitter to see if I could understand why they would suspend such accounts, and got a link to their DMCA policy, which states:

We respond to valid claims of alleged copyright infringement such as the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as an account background or account avatar, or Tweets containing a link to allegedly infringing materials.

But that doesn’t actually respond to the issue here. These were not links to infringing material. They were links to blog posts that linked to authorized material. Furthermore, Twitter told me that they provide those who are targeted with a takedown with “all info” from the claim including “who made it.” This appears to be untrue. I’ve now seen a few of the takedown notices and they provide no such info, which makes this worse. Twitter users are forced to respond to questionable DMCA takedown claims on links to blog posts that aren’t infringing, without even knowing who is issuing the takedown.

It seems like Twitter would have really strong reasons for refusing such takedowns. Twitter could easily point out that a link to a webpage is simply not infringing, thus they’re not hosting any infringing content included in the DMCA notice. Instead, it doesn’t just block that single tweet but suspends an entire account? That’s ridiculous overkill… and exactly what whoever is issuing the takedown notice wants. Even worse, by not providing the information on who filed the takedown, the whole process is completely blind. It’s censorship by DMCA takedown with Twitter helping out. That’s really unfortunate for a company that has a history of standing up to legal bullies.

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Comments on “Twitter Keeps Suspending Accounts Based On Highly Questionable DMCA Claims”

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Anonymous Coward says:

But that doesn’t actually respond to the issue here. These were not links to infringing material.

Missed a word: “allegedly infringing materials”.

I hereby claim that everything that ever has been or will be on the internet, including content uploaded by the content owners/RIAA, is infringing.
There. Now Twitter has to format all their hard drives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Have you ever actually read the DMCA?

512(d) makes it pretty clear that service providers are obligated to remove links to infringing material:

(d) Information Location Tools. ? A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hypertext link, if the service provider ?

(1)(A) does not have actual knowledge that the material or activity is infringing;

(B) in the absence of such actual knowledge, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; or

(C) upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material;

(2) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity; and

(3) upon notification of claimed infringement as described in subsection (c)(3), responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity, except that, for purposes of this paragraph, the information described in subsection (c)(3)(A)(iii) shall be identification of the reference or link, to material or activity claimed to be infringing, that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate that reference or link.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Riddle me this:

The RIAA always claims that everyone involved with this sort of issue just know somehow which things are infringing and which ones aren’t.

Now that I think about it, I suspect the problem might be that the RIAA is so clueless about technology that they think Twitter works exactly the same as a post office.
“Of course they know which ones are infringing! The clerks read them all before delivering them to the website, don’t they?”

LindaJoyAdams (profile) says:

Twitter and copyright credits

Twitter only allow 140 characters. When I comment on an article, like this one; I link it to my personal twitter account. Sometimes the credits/title is over 140 and the only way to make the statement ” see my comment” and post is to delete part of the credits. I earnestly try to make sure the name of site and author, etc. is still there.I do believe one should be given credit for their utterances. a phrase I made in 1948, at age three; and later published in reader’s digest got picked up by A presidential speech writer in the early ’90’s and passed off as his and much political harangue ensued over ” his statement” and most never knew it came from a different context. And I had no Internet to try and say: We need a Peace Corps because a 100o young people helping other help themselves would be like a Thousand Points of Light. This was said to then Cong Dirksen when my family was involved in trying to get Brethren Volunteer Service off the ground and Congress was being lobbied to have those that served in it would have met their military service requirement in case of a draft.Linda Joy Adams

aicra (profile) says:


Send a counternotification.

You can get a sample at Chilling Effects.

Within 10-14 days get restored.

I know, it sucks… should have never been taken down. They may claim TOS… but still, if people don’t file counterntofications, when will service providers finally get the point that they can’t just automatically take down a site that is allegedly infringing. If the work of removal of content and restoration of content is involved maybe service providers will carefully look over the DMCA notifications to see if the notification is really substantial. Many just check to see that the DMCA notice is valid or not.

So, until people start filing counternotifications, Service providers will simply disable access and/or remove content.

If you file a counter notification, they will have to restore the material and restore access which… trust me is a lot more challenging than you may think.

In fact, I know one lady who argued a DMCA notification and her content was not restored on Blogger. They told her that they simply could not restore it. That is cause for liability and she could sue, especially since the notification was false and showed that she allegedly filed a DMCA notification against herself!

Counternotify. If nothing else, make more work for the ISP!

LindaJoyAdams (profile) says:

Twitter Take downs

We are going into 14 months of what may be a very ‘ mud slinging’ presidential campaign–already is. One side could ‘play dirty’ and complain about a site that backs another candidate, etc. Free speech = free society and when one blogs about a candidate: don’t we all know its someone’s opinion and hope civility will be present-but it isn’t always. Unless what is said breaks the law, and those are rare and specific; leave the blogger alone. If I don’t want to read something; I hit the DELETE button.Linda Joy Adams

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