Facebook Takes Down Post Critical Of Indian Film For Copyright Violation, Even Though It Was An All-Text Post

from the copywrong dept

We should all know by now that Facebook’s reliability to handle copyright takedown requests is… not great. Like far too many internet platforms these days, the site typically puts its thumbs heavily on the scales such that the everyday user gets far less preference than large purported rights holders. I say “purported” because, of course, many bogus takedown requests get issued all the time. It’s one of the reasons that relying on these platforms, when they have shown no willingness to have any sort of spine on copyright matters, is such a mistake.

But few cases are as egregious as that of Leo Saldanha, a well-known environmental activist in India. When I tell you that Saldanha had a Facebook post taken down over a copyright notice, you must certainly be thinking that it had something to do with environmental activism. Nope! Actually, Saldanha wrote an all-text mini-review of an Indian film, Padmaavat, which was taken down after the distributor for the film claimed the post infringed on its copyrights. Here is the entirety of his post that was taken down.

“In my view, #padmaavat is a bore fest. Halfway the movie was coming to an end, I felt. But then woke up to the cruel fact there still was the other half, and it involved the horribly cruel act of mass suicide. There is something horribly wrong about a film, when a man’s voice reasserts, that this gory act was to protect ‘Bharat’s swabhimaan, or something to that effect.”

“The whole movie has one plot: of owning a woman. And all the characters conspire to subordinate women. True, this is a mythological account of times far in the past. But that one statement after the movie emphasises horrendous social mores of a medieval time and contextualises it as relevant to our times. Movies like these aren’t made with innocent intentions. Ranveer Singh is an incredible actor!”

Seriously, that text is the entire post. And I have to say that it’s quite tame as far as movie reviews go, not to mention fairly relevant from a movie critique standpoint. This wasn’t someone dumping on the movie for fun. Saldanha had a well thought out point, no matter of whether anyone might agree with the content of his argument. Certainly nothing in that is copyright infringement by any measure.

Yet Viacom 18 issued the takedown request and Facebook complied. Not only did it comply, in fact, but when Saldanha pushed back on Facebook trying to figure out what the hell was going on here, the only reply from the site was to warn of a perma-ban for repeated infringement and a recommendation to get Viacom 18’s permission to post his review. Saldanha, to put it lightly, was not pleased with this response.

Speaking to TNM, Saldanha says that he is deeply offended by the messages he received from Facebook and the allegation that he had violated anyone’s rights on any social media platform.

“Anyone should be free to express in any form, their views about public matters. This includes the right to agree, disagree and the right to dissent. I also maintain that I have never used threatening language while offering my opinion on any issue that is public, or of any public person. The fact that Facebook pulled down my post is a serious issue. This only shows that Facebook leans towards those with financial muscle. Viacom18 clearly does not want critical views for the movie,” Saldanha says.

There are all sorts of ways this could have happened — but none of them make either Viacom 18 or Facebook look good. The most immediate theory would be Viacom 18 abusing copyright law to take down a negative review — and Facebook assisting without a good reason. A more charitable (though still terrible) explanation would chalk it up to (once again) horrible automated systems flagging anything mentioning Padmaavat and falsely assuming it’s infringing. And, again, Facebook assisted this without good reason. No matter what it’s yet another example in our increasingly long list of cases where copyright is used for censorship.

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Companies: facebook, viacom, viacom 18

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Comments on “Facebook Takes Down Post Critical Of Indian Film For Copyright Violation, Even Though It Was An All-Text Post”

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39 Comments
David says:

Re: You know it's true...

Sorry to put a damper on your argument, but Google retired its “don’t be evil” motto after its author Marissa Mayer went on to lead Yahoo!… wherever. They replaced it with “Do the right thing” I believe. Now “right” and “good” are decidedly different things in the corporate sphere.

So Google no longer bothers pretending they’re not evil, either.

Anonymous Coward says:

But just prior, Techdirt trusts Facebook to censor the views of a person, tries ridiculing his law suit.

And note that in the piece linked below, I point out that Techdirt believes links to infringing content ARE protected free speech, so do I know Techdirt’s view, or what?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180207/09194839183/man-sues-facebook-moderating-his-bigoted-posts-wants-section-230-declared-unconstitutional.shtml#c480

(That little bit of text is a censored opinion here at Free Speech Techdirt, so be careful!)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: But just prior, Techdirt trusts Facebook to censor the views of a person, tries ridiculing his law suit.

If you spent as much time attempting to be an intelligent human being capable of reasonable discourse as you do trying to bypass the correctly working spam filters, you’d not have to post half as many words nor get your posts hidden (not censored).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But just prior, Techdirt trusts Facebook to censor the views of a person, tries ridiculing his law suit.

But just prior, Techdirt trusts Facebook to censor the views of a person, tries ridiculing his law suit.

You fail to grasp the difference between Facebook imposing its own rules, and somebody abusing a law to trick Facebook into censoring somebodies speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But just prior, Techdirt trusts Facebook to censor the views of a person, tries ridiculing his law suit.

This article: “Company abuses law to take down a negative review of its movie.”

Article you linked: “Man abuses law in attempt to force company to let him post his speech on their platform.”

Techdirt’s view seems to be rather consistent here.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re:

…and it wouldn’t be enforced in India in any case. I hope we get further updates on this matter.

I wonder what the Indian equivalent of a DMCA takedown looks like and what are the grounds where it can be used. I wonder if something’s been lost in translation — could it be a trademark or defamation claim rather than copyright? That would still be a mis-use of a takedown under US law, but at least make more sense than a copyright claim.

Carlie Coats says:

Re: Re: Re: Slander?

Slander: "… the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, …"

1) The statement that the text-only post infringes the copyright of a file is manifestly false;
and 2) claims of illegal activity harms the reputation of the individual per se.

Daydream says:

Wait a second, isn't this outright illegal?

This isn’t even a question of fair-use, since not even images from the film were used; it’s straight up not copyright infringement.

Now, if Mr. Saldanha issued a counter notice, including a statement that the mini-review in question is not infringing in any way, isn’t Facebook legally required to put it back up within 10-14 business days?
If Facebook didn’t honour that counter-notice and threatened to remove Saldanha’s account…doesn’t that put them in explicit violation of the law?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait a second, isn't this outright illegal?

Now, if Mr. Saldanha issued a counter notice, including a statement that the mini-review in question is not infringing in any way, isn’t Facebook legally required to put it back up within 10-14 business days?

Only if the person or company that issued the takedown does not respond to the counter notice. Mainly it looks the notice issues they have a simple method of dealing with counter notices, and that is to always state that their original claim was valid. The method is so simple that it can be automated.

Anonymous Coward says:

You are confused in at least three ways.

(1) You did not distinguish between what is “legal” and what is “ethical”. Facebook has a right, established by constitutional law, to remove any content from their site, so you have no possible cause to sue them for removing your particular drivel. But the Facebook people may recognize ethical standards in deciding whether to remove content that is abhorrent by their standards. The other post was about legal standards; this one is about ethical standards.

(2) You did not distinguish between what is “legally required” and what is “legally not required”. Facebook was NOT LEGALLY REQUIRED to take down the movie review, and ethical standards did not apply (the review was not alleged by anyone to be “evil”). But Facebook did take the review down, based on alleged legal reasoning (which is here claimed to be wrong).

(3) The most important error is that in trying to figure out “what party profits by this post”, you failed to consider the distinction between truth and falsehood. There is no inconsistency in telling the truth without concern for what corporation or party might benefit. So what if Facebook, or Google, or Verizon, is criticized today and praised tomorrow? Whose actions are totally good (some might claim Google tries) and whose are totally evil (some might claim with better evidence that Verizon tries…)

There are plenty of Facebook fan sites, or Google hate sites. This site has different goals.

bob says:

Sweet, another article that one AC will take out of context and result in a page of comments being blocked.

If only that AC would stop wasting his/her time and ours. But alas we will see the following things again:

-links to previous posts the community flagged but the AC still contends are filtered per the site owners.
-ignorance of key points from the article that completely debunk any nonsense the AC posts.
-whole comments being hidden.
-logical fallacies being used by AC.
-off topic rants about, well anything but the article in question.
-attempts to call out Techdirt as being hypocritical. Yet AC failing to recognize himself or herself as a hypocrite.
-another reference to XKCD because the AC still doesn’t understand logic or irony.
-ranting reactionary posts by AC to the slightest inference that AC is an idiot/troll/child.
-continued disregard for human decency and manners by AC. AC might still act the same way in real life but who knows.
-bad punctuation and interspersing of all-caps by AC.
-the fact that AC thinks we really care what he or she thinks.
-the denial by AC that anything he or she posts could possible be wrong.
-(continue list as needed)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You are not a user of Facebook.

You’ve said this before. I ask again – why is a random, obviously biased subreddit a valid source for information? Why is Reddit itself even a trusted source, couldn’t they also be evil?

It’s funny, you can always tell how much someone’s actually thinking of their objections to something. People who have done that will post arguments and evidence. People who haven’t will just post to the echo chamber that told them to think like that.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 You are not a user of Facebook.

So, no thoughts of your own? No original ideas outside of your echo chamber? No reasoning skills at all except name calling and demanding everyone goes to the same shaded spot you hang out in? No actual reason why everyone should go to the site you love, except that they have told you to hate a different site?

No thanks, I’ll call bullshit on your Reddit cultism and wait till adults turn up. Hell, judging by your actions I’m more likely to find them on FB than where you spend your time anyway.

If only one of you idiots wanted to have a conversation rather than trying to push the flavour of cult you happen to love. You’ll have to do a lot better if you want new recruits for your church, your actions here don’t cut it. Facebook might have a lot of problems, but at least they bother to give people a reason to go there instead of blindly demanding.

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