Famous 'Converted Jihadist' Issues DMCA Takedowns On Videos Later Shown To Be False

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

Ergun Caner is apparently a “popular evangelical speaker” who has regularly spoken to various military and other groups, explaining how he was born and raised in Istanbul as a Muslim, trained as a jihadist to hate America, and only changed his position after coming to the US at 14 and converting to Christianity at 18. A blogger named Jason Smathers put together a big collection of documents a few years ago that suggests almost none of that is true. Caner was apparently born in Sweden, came to the US at age 2 and grew up in Ohio with his Lutheran mother, after she divorced Caner’s father (who was Muslim). Yet, in speeches in videos that Smathers posted, showing Caner conducting “training sessions on cultural issues” for US Marines just before they were to be shipped overseas, Caner told a very different story:

“I knew nothing about America until I came here when I was 14 years old,” Caner said. “Everything I knew about American culture I learned through American television.” He went on to explain misconceptions of America learned from watching the “Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” professional wrestling and Chicago Cubs baseball.

While on the one hand longing to be an American, Caner advised: “We are taught from birth, you are the infidel. You are sons of Satan.”

“My madrassa (Muslim school) in Istanbul, Turkey; my madrassa in Cairo, Egypt, there’s no question of what the doctrine of jihad was,” he continued. “It is only when we come to America and hear westernized Islam we hear that ‘Oh, Islam means peace.’”

“I was sworn to jihad,” Caner told the Marines. “At the age of 9 until I was 18 years old and I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I was sworn to jihad. I followed the protocols. I knew the three waves. I understood what you do before you take the death plunge, as we call it. I understand why the guys were in the bars with the hookers the night before the bombing of 9/11, because, ‘Eat drink and be merry; tomorrow we are forgiven.’”

Right. So, those claims by Caner in that video clearly contradict the documents, like the affidavit from his mother during his parents’ divorce proceedings and the divorce papers themselves, which show that they had all lived in Ohio since the time Ergun was two, and that before that his parents were married in Sweden. The final divorce decree shows that Ergun’s mother (a Lutheran) got custody of the children. Basically, all of the claims above about growing up in Istanbul don’t seem to have much support from those documents.

Those documents came out a few years ago. But, just recently, Caner apparently had his lawyers issue DMCA takedowns on the videos where he makes those claims about growing up in Istanbul and Cairo, learning about jihad. The takedown, to video hosting site Viddler, claims that Caner “is the exclusive owner of the copyrights in and to the text, artwork, logos, videos, and photographs of his public speeches and presentations.”

Smathers has hit back that the work was recorded by the US military, and thus has no copyright (as works of the federal government are automatically public domain). Because of this, they’ve filed a bar complaint against Caner’s lawyer:

Bloggers have been reporting that Caner has been asserting copyright claims on any video where he lied about his past having them removed via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). On June 3rd, Caner’s attorney sent such a notice to Viddler concerning one video Witnesses Unto Me posted. However, this video is a US Government work, not subject to copyright. This didn’t stop Caner’s attorney from stating “… under penalty of perjury, I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner…” Although, Caner is clearly not the owner. The letters from Caner’s attorney attesting to lies “under penalty of perjury” are embedded at the end of this story. Of course the other videos being taken down across the internet seem to fall squarely under fair use.

Witnesses Unto Me has filed a grievance with the Texas State Bar against Caner’s Attorney, David C. Gibbs III. The bar has not yet had time to review the complaint. Witnesses Unto Me asserted that any attorney practicing in copyright law would know that his client does not own a US Government work and is abusing the DMCA takedown provisions to assist his client in erasing the clear trail of lies.

Those claims by Smathers may be slightly overstated. It is unclear from the information presented if the works in question really are public domain. While it is true that works created by the federal government are public domain, that is not true of works created by others for the government, such as contractors or the like. So, there could be a scenario where whoever filmed the actual video was somehow working for Caner and assigned the copyright to Caner.

That said, even if Caner somehow does have the copyright on it, this seems like a pretty clear case of where fair use would apply, since the use of the videos is to expose statements that Smathers is claiming (with a ton of supporting evidence) are false by Caner. It’s not difficult to see where there would be a strong fair use interest in allowing those videos to live on. Furthermore, it also seems quite likely that the sole reason for the DMCA takedowns is to hide these statements of Caner’s that were later shown to be false by Smathers, making it yet another case where it appears the DMCA and copyright in general are being used for censorship: using the power of the government to stifle free expression in the public interest.

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Comments on “Famous 'Converted Jihadist' Issues DMCA Takedowns On Videos Later Shown To Be False”

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Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Civil or criminal?

So my question is simple which would stop invalid DMCA takedown notices from happening? Civil or Criminal or allow both?

Because there needs to be penalties that are stiff enough that those that request the takedown and those that facilitate the request (read:lawyers) are smacked down hard enough to make sure they have a strong and valid case before sending one.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Civil or criminal?

And I am not talking about slap on the hand penalties.

The reason I want penalties that are harsh is because in the end these are not just a problem for people that post the videos and then have to fight to get them back up but they are in the end an attack on our right of free speech. They an effort to shut someone up.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Civil or criminal?

I have a question. Why did the US military record Caner saying all this stuff and why did he need to lie about his life history in the first place? It does seem like something done intentionally in order to make all Muslims appear to be extremists out to kill us, to create an atmosphere of guilt-by-association — a fear tactic?

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is true in the most traditional way. But this is a case of the meaning of a word has been modified by perception.

And in the end your/their/our perception is your/their/our reality.

Poll Muslims and ask them what they think it means. Then you can define their reality.

I know maybe 7-8 true Muslims that all believe that Islam means peace and even they define Jihad as a war/fight/struggle against infidels.

So what it means to the people that write dictionaries and what it means to those that practice are not always the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Like you, afraid to get the extremists angry, afraid for your little pathetic life?

Angry people wont stop being angry with you, they will just find another excuse to act the way they want to act, until someone takes a stand against.

So yes fuck the Muslins and their feeling.
Want some respect, start doing something about the extremists and then I give respect to those people.

Although I would not give that much, is a religion, a retarded religion, like just any other religion that ever graced the face of this earth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It surely would have been less stressful for you and more directly to the point for you to have simply stated you fully embraced your ignorance and carefully cultivated your fear.

It’s refreshing to hear from someone who so embraces their cowardice that they don’t even try to hide the stench of it with even the pretence of rationality or calm.

anon says:

Why Not More?

The biggest abuse of the DMCA is false take-down notices. Good for these guys for making a point; but yes, what we need is stiffer civil AND criminal penalties for deliberate (or claimed inadvertant) false takedown notices.

The “under penalty of perjury” provision was put there for a reason. Why is it so toothless? Maybe all DMCA takedowns need to be filed by a member of the bar association, with supporting documentation available on request.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why Not More?

Sheesh, such naivety.
How could you possibly imagine that they should be exposed for being unable to tell what is under their copyright and what isn’t under their copyright. If that became known, people/politicians would be so much less likely to accept their claim that youtube and google etc should be able to automagically know that any particular file, uploaded by any particular person at any particular time is infringing or not.

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