WordPress Wins Case Against DMCA Abuser… Who Ignored The Proceedings

from the it's-a-start dept

Back in the summer of 2013, we wrote about yet another case of someone abusing the DMCA to censor content, rather than for any legitimate copyright purpose. The story was quite ridiculous, involving a group in the UK, called “Straight Pride UK.” The group did an interview with a student named Oliver Hotham, who had emailed the group, noting he was a journalist with a list of questions. The guy behind “Straight Pride UK,” Nick Steiner, responded to the questions with a document, which the group labeled as a “press release.” Hotham posted his article, which, quite reasonably, made Straight Pride UK look ridiculous. In response, the group issued a DMCA takedown notice to Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, and the host of the article.

A couple months later, the legal team at Automattic decided it had had enough of these kinds of bogus takedowns and filed two lawsuits concerning bogus takedowns, including Nick Steiner’s. As we’ve noted for years, the DMCA does have section 512(f) which allows for some punishment for bogus DMCA takedowns, but in practice, 512(f) has been almost entirely neutered by the courts. Yet here were cases of clear abuse.

So it’s good to see that the court in the Hotham/Automattic/Steiner case has now ruled for WordPress and awarded $25,084.00. Unfortunately, Steiner has more or less ignored the entire case, so it is really a default judgment. And, assuming Steiner never comes to the US, it may not ever truly impact him, and it’s doubtful that he’ll pay up. Still, at the very least, it’s nice to see some sort of victory against bogus DMCA takedowns, given that it is so rare.

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Companies: automattic, wordpress

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Comments on “WordPress Wins Case Against DMCA Abuser… Who Ignored The Proceedings”

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16 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

“Hotham posted his article, which, quite reasonably, made Straight Pride UK look ridiculous.”

If the name of the group accurately reflects the attitude and logic I think it does, they’re most likely doing that themselves without any help.

“Still, at the very least, it’s nice to see some sort of victory against bogus DMCA takedowns, given that it is so rare.”

But, an empty victory, really. It’s now been demonstrated that a foreign actor can negatively affect a US business with false or misleading claims. But, even if found guilty of abuse under the laws and penalties provided, said actor can not only ignore proceedings but never receive his punishment so long as he stays out of the jurisdiction involved. The same jurisdiction, by the way, that has no problem with them using local mechanisms for filing the false claim in the first place.

A proper victory would be for a similar judgement – per instance – against the companies who carpet bomb the internet with false DMCA notices. This case just seems to show how weak and open to abuse the whole thing is even if victims opt to fight back.

TheResidentSkeptic says:

Cake, Eating, and Cognitive Dissonance

1) Since he is a foreigner and won’t come to the US, he’ll never have to pay.

2) Since he is a foreigner he is obviously a fugitive from Justice and must have a foreign government seize all his assets.

Sounds like somebody thinks the US rules the world…under certain conditions, of course…

DB (profile) says:

It’s meaningless as a precedent, but the ruling does have value.

It can establish a demostrated pattern and likelihood of abuse — foreign entities filing DMCA requests, implicitly submitting themselves to the jurisdiction of the court, but refusing to accept the responsibility associated with using the court’s power.

With a few examples, WordPress can start to require a confirmation of requests — making the sender explicitly acknowledge that their request puts them under the jurisdiction of the district court. That doesn’t conform with the law as written, but the district court is unlikely to consider it problematic given the proven history.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Why file against someone who isn’t in the jurisdiction of the court you file in?”

Well, what other recourse do they have? What they did isn’t illegal under UK law, since despite the MPAA’s claims to the contrary, the DMCA (and thus its penalties for false claims) don’t apply there. The defendant is now also in trouble if he ever does decide to visit the US.

“The result is good, but meaningless in the real world.”

It’s less meaningful than a judgement that wasn’t caused by a default. But, it’s a good example to point to to show how badly the DMCA can be abused and how little realistic comeback innocent parties have when attacked.

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