Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Abusing The DMCA To Shut Up Critics

from the what-a-wonderful-law dept

There are plenty of problems with the DMCA, that are highlighted here often enough, but one that doesn't get very much attention is the fact that, beyond the standard "notice & takedown" procedure, anyone who claims that their content has been infringed online can then file a claim to reveal who posted/provided/uploaded the content in question. No lawsuit needs to be filed. No proof needs to be in place to show that there was actual infringement. For obvious reasons, that has the potential to be widely abused. Three years ago, there was a case where a porn site used this provision to subpoena ISPs to find out the identity of those who visited its site. This was also at the core of the nasty court battle between various ISPs (headed up by Verizon) against the RIAA, which eventually meant that the RIAA actually had to file John Doe lawsuits before demanding the identity of people. Considering how many takedown notices are improper, it seems only reasonable that you should be required to actually, you know, prove that something wrong happened before you can find out the names of people online. Unfortunately, it's still not the case. The EFF is fighting back against a company that has used this aspect of the DMCA to try to unmask the names of people who uploaded a video documentary critical of them. Obviously, the organization in question (a very controversial group) does not own the copyright. However, that doesn't stop them from using the DMCA to try to find out who uploaded the documentary. The organization is claiming that they can make a DMCA claim, based on the fact that some of their copyrighted content appears in the film -- though, the EFF points out that this is clearly fair use (which is allowed for the purpose of criticism). The EFF claims, and seems to have considerable support, that this is a case where the DMCA is being abused to go after critics of an organization, rather than for any real effort to protect copyrights.

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  • identicon
    A chicken passeth by, 31 Oct 2006 @ 4:13am

    You know, this kind of activity gets me thinking.

    Perhaps those flaws protected by the DMCA are intentional backdoors.

    Companies want people to shut up about it so:
    1. They have exclusive use of the secret entrance.
    2. They'll never have to patch it because no one will know.

    I don't mean to sound like someone else with that WMF flaw claim... but half of the flaws out there (if I can trust Microsoft) are ones that go "...allow a hacker to gain control of your computer".

    Makes one think...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MadJo (profile), 31 Oct 2006 @ 6:27am


      I'm not sure why MS is dragged into this? Or the WMF flaw. The article was about a lawsuit pending by a company called "Landmark Education" against a video that clearly is within the fair use provisions of the copyright, using that huge loophole in the US laws, called DMCA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      A Non-Mouse Cow Herd, 31 Oct 2006 @ 7:23am


      Did you even read the summary? Did you even read the headline?

      I'm gonna assume you accidentally posted on the wrong article...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2006 @ 9:41am

    use the dmca for anything

    since it seems the dmca can be used for anything...

    "hey, you're breathing air - which means you are stealing mine! give him the death sentence!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DittoBox, 31 Oct 2006 @ 10:04am

    DMCA isn't "real effort"

    Normally I agree with you Mike, and I think most of your post is good. But I don't like that last line "real effort to protect copyrights".

    There's no "real effort" to do anything constructive with the DMCA, it's just one giant, government sanctioned racket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike Perry, 31 Oct 2006 @ 2:01pm


    yet another abuse of the DMCA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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