Ecuador Continues To Use US Copyright Law To Censor Critics
from the but-copyright-isn't-about-censorship,-right? dept
A few years ago, we highlighted an absolutely ridiculous claim by a pro-copyright expansion think tank, arguing that it was a myth that copyright could ever be used for censorship. In that article, we listed out a number of examples of copyright being used absolutely for reasons of censorship, including a few by government actors. But, by far, one of the worst abusers of copyright law (and US copyright law specifically) to censor critical speech is the government of Ecuador. We’ve written a few times about Ares Rights, a Spanish company that was regularly sending DMCA notices in the US to try to suppress any kind of criticism of Ecuador’s government (and also on criticism of Ares Rights).
These stories demonstrated fairly blatant abuse of the DMCA, as none of the stories in question involved copyright infringement in the slightest. There was no reason for the takedown other than to hide content that the Ecuadorian government didn’t like. Last fall, Buzzfeed took the story one step further, in getting access to some leaked documents proving that Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, used the country’s intelligence budget to censor critical content, often using copyright takedown requests.
The records, seen by BuzzFeed News, show that at least one contract, for just under $4.7 million, was signed with a Mexican company that then successfully removed material from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Dailymotion.
Videos removed by the company, which filed weekly reports on successful deletions, included a critical documentary by filmmaker Santiago Villa, an electoral broadcast from a rival accusing Correa of behaving like a dictator, a video from a former aide to Correa?s wife alleging persecution, and a report of a jailbreak from Ecuador?s highest-security prison.
The article makes the Ares Rights connection, though noting that it appears that Ares Rights was brought in as a subcontractor to the original company the government hired.
If you thought this publicity on the censorship-by-US copyright law plan might cause Ecuador and Ares Rights to back off, you’d be wrong. A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, notes that Ecuador and Ares Rights continue an active campaign to censor critics by abusing US copyright law.
On December 30, César Ricaurte, the executive director of Fundamedios, received a copyright complaint with the potential to close his entire website. The complaint, filed on behalf of Ecuador’s communications regulator SECOM by a company called Ares Rights, ordered the independent press freedom group to remove an image of President Rafael Correa from its website, he told CPJ.
The incident, which Fundamedios denounced on its website as censorship, is an example of how copyright complaints have been used against Ecuadoran news outlets and groups critical of the Correa administration.
The article, among other things, notes that Ares Rights and Ecuador are relying, in part, on the fact that various US trade agreements and treaties mean that companies need to “respect” the copyrights from foreign countries, and that’s why the DMCA is an effective tool, even if all of the parties are outside of the US.
Either way, this should certainly reinforce the fact that copyright is frequently used for censorship. Sometimes it’s censorship that many people approve of, such as blocking someone merely making use of someone else’s work — and sometimes it’s used to censor political criticism. Until people recognize, however, that copyright is absolutely (and regularly) used for censorship, it’s difficult to have any realistic discussion of how to prevent the abusive kind of censorship with kinds that people may find more reasonable.