Bernie Sanders' Campaign DMCAs Wikimedia For Hosting His Logos

from the wrong-on-so-many-levels dept

What is it with political campaigns issuing totally bogus takedown notices? It happens all too frequently, especially with presidential campaigns. But the latest example may be the stupidest one we’ve seen to date. The folks at the Lumen Database (formerly Chilling Effects) alert us to the ridiculous news that Bernie Sanders’ campain issued a bogus DMCA notice to the Wikimedia Foundation, because Wikimedia Commons has hosted some Sanders’ logos.

You can read the full takedown letter here, sent by a redacted lawyer at Garvey Schubert Barer, a firm that claims to have expertise in intellectual property law. If that’s true, they sure don’t show it in this letter. First of all, they’re sending a DMCA notice, which only applies to copyright, but posting campaign logos is hardly copyright infringement. When you’re talking about logos, at best you’re talking trademark, but that’s not an issue here either. Whether it’s trademark or copyright, Wikimedia hosting campaign logos is clearly fair use. If they’re really arguing copyright, then it’s an easy fair use call. If it’s trademark, there’s no “use in commerce” on the Wikimedia side, and no likelihood of confusion. Either one is simply stupid to argue.

Separately, these are campaign logos which are advertising for the campaign. What kind of clueless lawyer thinks the right move is to demand such things get taken down?

And, then of course, there’s the inevitable backlash over this. Presidential campaigns trying to censor people — or worse, a site like Wikipedia — is always going to backfire. It makes the campaign look thin-skinned, foolish and short-sighted.

I’m guessing that if this makes enough news, the Sanders campaign will back down on this, and say it was an overzealous lawyer or some other such thing, but there’s no reason such takedowns should ever be sent in the first place.

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Comments on “Bernie Sanders' Campaign DMCAs Wikimedia For Hosting His Logos”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Stupid lawyers try to show they are worth retainer, film at 11.

If only the DMCA had teeth for both sides & lawyers could be fined for sending idiotic letters then perhaps things would improve. There isn’t anything remotely questionable about this being a bogus computer generated match not reviewed by humans.

Guess it is time to start a list of stupid lawfirms & publicize they don’t know the law. Sad that the only way to fight back against this is to either take it, wait to be sued, & pray the Judge makes them cover your costs or to hope publicity wakes up a senior partner to remind the staff that actually knowing the law is a requirement for the job.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

While I don’t disagree with you it is my belief that many lawyers are employing the Streisand Effect in an affirmative marketing effort. Some of them may still believe that any press is good press, and to some degree they might be right. In the Internet age, however, the opportunity to ridicule is much more pervasive and it is harder to predict which will be more persuasive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Depends on the lawyers intent. If the lawyer wants to let other potential clients know that he is willing to file bogus takedowns and engage in frivolous activities whenever said client needs such a layer they now know who to call. See, it’s an advertising strategy for the lawyer. The lawyer makes money either way even if the client loses money trying to fight a losing battle.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Which takes me back to an old chestnut…
stupid should hurt

There is nothing in the DMCA that makes them hurt when they abuse it.

If the firm was dumb enough to take this to court a Judge MIGHT (because Judges are odd) sanction them for filing a frivolous case.

Not only should the firm get spanked by the press & public but the client needs a spanking as well. If they want to attract clients who want to do frivolous things, one needs to make it hurt enough that they stop.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think it would fall under legal misconduct.

A DMCA notice requires the signer to swear under penalty of perjury that the allegedly offending material is breaching some copyright.

I find it hard to believe that an intellectual property lawyer could argue ignorance of the statutes such that:
1) they do not know the difference between copyright and trademark;
2) that they do not know that DMCA notices apply to copyrights only (and hence not trademarks);
3) that the allegedly infringing material is a copyright and not a trademark.

I think committing perjury is exactly the sort of thing that the Bar Grieve process was put in place for.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

A DMCA notice requires the signer to swear under penalty of perjury that the allegedly offending material is breaching some copyright.

I don’t think that part has a perjury penalty.

Charlie, Bob’s lawyer, sends a letter to YouTube’s designated agent (registered with the Copyright Office) including:

contact information
the name of the song that was copied
the address of the copied song
a statement that he has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
a statement that the information in the notification is accurate
a statement that, under penalty of perjury, Charlie is authorized to act for the copyright holder
his signature

Heidi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But he’s only established trademark rights in his logos in the US because he isn’t running anywhere else (unless they try to make the argument that they’re making commercial use outside the US in marketing to US expats?) so he shouldn’t realistically have TM rights elsewhere, which means there’s nothing to infringe on. And a DMCA would still be inappropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Intellectual property

In the Republican and Democratic parties you of the common herd are not expected to think. That is not only unnecessary but might lead you astray. That is what the ‘intellectual’ leaders are for. They do the thinking and you do the voting. They ride in carriages at the front where the band plays and you tramp in the mud, bringing up the rear with great enthusiasm.

The capitalist system affects to have great regard and reward for intellect, and the capitalists give themselves full credit for having superior brains. . . . ”

           ——Eugene V. Debs, Canton, Ohion, June 16, 1918


Anonymous Coward says:

“Wikimedia Commons does not accept fair use media files (such as non-free logos, covers, screenshots, or reproductions of other copyrighted works) because fair use laws vary from country to country—thus, content deemed acceptable under, for instance, US fair use concepts is not usable in the majority of other countries.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re implying the campaign sat down and made a decision to order a takedown notice. That’s a highly unlikely senario. Like any business with a side business of selling some branded merchandise to raise some extra funds, would just task a person to manage the legal stuff. It’s not like they’re the nfl who have selling branded stuff as their business model.

All indications are… They’ve hired a legal firm to do all the legal stuff. They do it. The idea that the legal firm is micromanaged to the level of every action, it’s way out there.

You manage the shop. You manage legal stuff. You manage…

Could easily have been a person at the ‘shop’, calling the legal team and saying ‘they’re using our button designs’. Even you can’t really imply it’s a decison ‘the sanders campaign’ made knowingly and purposefully… As you even admit, it would make no logical sense for the ‘campaign’to make an idiotic decision like that.

That One Other Not So Random Guy says:

Re: Re:

You can do this here but not there but over there… maybe. Just goes to show you how fucked up copyright is when you can or can’t or maybe can here but not there etc. for discussions on relevant topics. Thanks for providing a perfect example of Copyright gone awry.

Thats why no one respects it. Oh and for completeness… not just what you wanted to cherry pick:

“Fair use” allowed on some Wikimedia projects

You may, however, submit such images to your local wiki, if it allows fair use. Note that files uploaded to a local wiki can be used only locally at that wiki.

Some, but by no means all, local WMF wikis allow the uploading of certain non-free material under very limited conditions, provided they have adopted what the WMF calls an Exemption Doctrine Policy. You can check whether your local wiki has adopted such a policy here.

The Dutch Wikipedia, for example, does not allow the uploading of non-free content. The English Wikipedia, on the other hand, does allow fair use materials subject to its strict non-free content policy, which requires the uploader to provide a detailed fair use rationale. The restrictions on Fair Use placed on editors by Wikimedia policies and guidelines, are stricter than those imposed by the laws of the United States.

If your local wiki does not allow the uploading of fair use material (and some, such as Spanish Wikipedia do not allow local uploading at all, making use only of media on Commons), then on that wiki there is no way of accessing any non-free or fair use file except through an external link (as hotlinking is disabled on Wikimedia wikis). If you are unable to persuade your local wiki community to adopt an Exemption Doctrine Policy then there is no option but to try to find replacement files that are free.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Just goes to show you how fucked up copyright is when you can or can’t or maybe can here but not there etc. for discussions on relevant topics”

It’s also exactly why it’s idiotic to believe that Google et al. can just come up with a system that automatically protects copyright. If the status of a file can change depending on who’s using it, where it’s used, the context of the use and offline agreements between parties, it’s impossible for an algorithm to determine copyright status correctly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

i thought sanders was a different kind of person

Dude. The central plank of Sanders’ campaign is about how absolutely awful it is that some non-profit corporation dared to speak about a politician in the run up to an election.

Why would you be surprised that Sanders would use any weapons he has to shut up some horrid corporation?

• “The Wikimedia Foundation is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization…”

• “Citizens United Foundation (CUF) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit…”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Corporations . . . should not have a “voice”

So, you’re saying that NAACP v Button (1963) was wrongly decided.

The NAACP was formed in 1909 and incorporated under New York law as a nonprofit membership corporation in 1911. . .

Petitioner challenges the decision of the Supreme Court of appeals on many grounds. But we reach only one: that Chapter 33 as construed and applied abridges the freedoms of the First Amendment, protected against state action by the Fourteenth. More specifically, petitioner claims that the chapter infringes the right of the NAACP and its members and lawyers to associate for the purpose of assisting persons who seek legal redress for infringements of their constitutionally guaranteed and other rights. We think petitioner may assert this right on its own behalf, because, though a corporation, it is directly engaged in those activities, claimed to be constitutionally protected, which the statute would curtail. We also think petitioner has standing to assert the corresponding rights of its members.

We reverse the judgment of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. We hold that the activities of the NAACP, its affiliates and legal staff shown on this record are modes of expression and association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments which Virginia may not prohibit . . .

(Emphasis added; citations omitted.)

In your opinion, that decision is just wrong, wrong, WRONG.

In your opinion, a corporation has no rights that society is bound to respect.


So what’s the problem with forcing Wikimedia corporation to shut up?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I feel strongly about corporations’ ability to speak as well. I have even stated on Techdirt something akin to what Almost Anonymous stated, and backed down from there.

What I object to is the corporations ability to buy ANY representatives vote. Corporations cannot vote and therefore should have limits in how they might impact the voting process. They should have no right to buy laws.

Maybe the line should be ‘money is not speech’, which could be enacted by the government paying for all elections and ensuring equal distribution of advertising ability (the airwaves are ours, no need to pay to use them) and limiting or forbidding political advertising outside of that distribution. There are ways to do this if one looks for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

forbidding political advertising outside of that distribution

You want to prohibit anyone from publishing about politics unless licensed under your system?

Transcript of Oral Argument, March 9, 2009

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It’s a 500-page book, and at the end it says, and so vote for X, the government could ban that?

You’re saying that if that 500-page book that Chief Justice Roberts asked about—if that book is not financed under your system, then the government could ban it? What if someone else, not affiliated with any campaign, wrote the book? It could be banned? Burned?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I believe I said advertising, and more to the point contributions to representatives that do not represent those corporations.

The corporations don’t have a vote. The people that work there to, but the corporations do not. Therefore the corporations are not represented by members of any legislature.

So, tell us, just why should they have a voice in what our representative do or do not do? Free speech?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

just why should they have a voice …?

Do you believe that people have a fundamental right to organize themselves for peaceful political change?

Yes or no?

I myself will say that people do have the fundamental right to organize and work together. In fact, I will tell you that idea is foundational to collective self-government.

When you attack the people’s right to organize for political purposes—you are demanding a tyrannical king to go around shutting people up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I am demanding that (for example) that Hollywood not be able to buy inappropriate extensions to copyright. I am demanding that cable companies not be able to buy restrictions on competition. I am demanding that defense contractors not be able to get surveillance that enriches their companies but do nothing for our security be able to influence legislation.

How would you go about it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:


And when that doesn’t work? It hasn’t you know!

Well, in that case, look at the changes that have swept our nation in the span of time from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott up to the 2009 inauguration of Mr Obama: Conclude that you yourself ought to get to be President, and when you are, then you tell everyone who will hear —in coded language to be sure— that NAACP v Button (1963) was wrong, wrong, WRONG! And Hillary is really, really butthurt about the mean movie bashing her.

Be of undoubted faith that the moral arc of the universe bends through a maze of short and twisty passages, all alike.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

Wtf, dude. This is not complicated. Of course people can organize to try to enact peaceful political change. BUT. This should not give them the right or power to essentially bypass all campaign funding restrictions by pretending that donated money is coming from a corporation (which is a legal FICTION) versus from powerful rich people. If a person wants to contribute financially to a politician, then they can do so, personally and legally.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

I actually start a bit earlier, around 1792, from Wikipedia “The Federalist Party grew from Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who favored a strong united central government, close ties to Britain, a centralized banking system, and close links between the government and men of wealth. The Democratic-Republican Party was founded by James Madison and by Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who strongly opposed Hamilton’s agenda.” and that Federalist position is what has come about, and is one of the things I detest about our system.

“Be of undoubted faith that the moral arc of the universe bends through a maze of short and twisty passages, all alike.”

I reject your premise that all passages are alike and/or that faith is necessary. I prefer fact based conclusions (even when facts can change with new information) and leave faith to those who cannot square the universe in any other way. Things can change, but that change is much more difficult when hobbled by interpretations of rules intended to make change easy, actually make change harder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

I actually start a bit earlier, around 1792…

General Washington stands at the head of appeals to republican virtues, shunning factionalism and sectionalism. In counter-thesis, Jefferson’s belief in the necessity of an opposition party must be contrasted with fears throughout southern plantations of an organized slave revolt.

But let me go back to start even earlier, in 1620, with the somewhat apocryphal landing at Plymouth Rock: The Mayflower Compact asserted here in North America our common right to self-charter a political body.

By 1765, when the First Congress of the American Colonies (the “Stamp Act Congress”) assembled in New York, back in London, the Lords of Trade (“Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations”) were alarmed, writing:

[T]his appears to us to be the first instance of any General Congress appointed by the Assemblies of the Colonies without the Authority of the Crown, a Measure which we Conceive of dangerous Tendency in itself.

But long years before our Stamp Act Congress organized itself to draft its Declaration of Rights and Grievances, it had been already been declared by the 1689 English Bill of Rights:

That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

Passing down through the centuries, to our modern republic, today, where our theory of goverment vests ultimate sovereignty in the people themselves, it must be understood that our right of assembly is more than mere right of disorganized rabble: A lawless mob, disregarding all rule, is indeed a dangerous beast. The right to assemble is the right to peaceful and necessarily organized assembly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

I reject your premise that all passages are alike and/or that faith is necessary.

One must read my earlier words in the proper spirit to comprehend the meaning in which they were written.

On a deeper note, if we are to consider the passage of Mayflower across the Atlantic—and the political event that transpired while laying off shore in Provincetown Harbor, then too we must also consider the arrival of White Lion to the shores of Virginia at Jamestown the year before.

1619       Arrival of “20 and odd” Africans in late August 1619, not aboard a Dutch ship as reported by John Rolfe, but an English warship, White Lion . . .

The middle passage indeed holds great suffering.

On Dr King’s holiday, last Monday, I found occasion to re-read his Letter From A Birmingham Jail.

Given the nature of our communications here, I am unsure whether any of you are still reading, or whether you all have moved on to the latest topics and trendiest amusements. It seems to me that if any of you are still monitoring this thread, then we may now be in something of the nature of a rather silent meeting. If so, then much blame, of course, must be laid upon the tardiness of my responses. I assure you though, that my delay is not due to neglect, but flows from the care and contemplation with which I am treating this whole matter.

It remains my firm desire to pursuade here.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m actually quite disappointed to see this from his campaign. As an outsider hailing from the southern tip of Africa, I feel that Bernie seems to be the only decent person who is worth voting for on either side. As a person.

Everybody else is extremely scary/crazy/evil if you look at any amount of footage of them. American political season is great in that it makes African politics seem much more bearable.

3ifbylies says:

Campaign promises

Bernie sanders seems to say a lot of things that sound good, but I wonder how much of it is practical. I’ve just started up my own website and I recently wrote an extensive metaphor for campaign promises. Here’s the link, a view and comment would be greatly appreciated

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

On DMCA site

Just read this on the DMCA site.

Note: although the DMCA is part of US Copyright law, a DMCA Takedown does not require the content to be copyrighted in order to process the takedown OR for the request to have the content taken down acted upon by the website owner or ISP.

In other words,the fact the content is yours, or in the case of a photo or video the subject is you, can be sufficient enough to request a takedown.

Monday (profile) says:

Dude wants to ride Coat Tails...

It is obviously a boiler plate bogus takedown order (read the .pdf) but I believe that Lawyer dude was looking for a larger payout in the form of, “If we’re successful, we can say ‘Hey, Sanders, we gotchur back. Hire me, and I’ll make you all kinds of rich.’ “

I was never going to work. The logos are beyond public use, they’re Sanders logos, and I’m of the feeling that he doesn’t find that kind of t̶r̶o̶l̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ behavior the least bit attractive.

Robert (profile) says:

I don't blame them

Wikipedia and other Wiki sites can be inaccurate, and seemingly agenda driven. If there is some kind of official logo and they are putting up bad information, then why would you want your logo associated with bad information?

Specifically Wikipedia is notorious for maintaining bad information if they don’t like the accurate data. Families and Estates complain all the time about going in to correct information, with data and sources, only to have Wikipedia monitors or admin or whatever, go in and replace it with their own, inaccurate info. It happens all the time. So not only do I think it’s a good move, I hope it’s a trend.

I have not seen the page, and I have no idea whether any of it is accurate or not, it might be good info for all I know, but I have heard of, and have been on the bad end of Wikipedia using their site to smear people, or seemingly purposely mislead people.

Most people tend to believe things they see on their TV or in a source they think is going to be accurate. So just to be on the safe side, making sure you are not associated with bad info is a good idea. I applaud this.

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