Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Abusing The DMCA To Take Down Any Content

from the such-a-great-law dept

This has been quite a week for stories about people abusing the DMCA. Earlier, we had the story of a company that was abusing the DMCA to hunt down critics. In that case, they were using the fact that you can use the DMCA to send a subpoena without actually proving there's any infringing material, and often companies will give up IP address info once they get the subpoena. Now we've got two more examples of similar abuses. The first also comes from the EFF who has filed a lawsuit against someone for abusing the DMCA. The person in question apparently did some stuff online to annoy a lot of people, and when others wrote nasty articles about him, he simply filed DMCA complaints to get ISPs to take down the stories -- even though there was absolutely no copyright infringement at all. He based the claim on a photo of himself that was from a TV interview he did with Fox News, saying he owned the copyright. Of course, he doesn't own the copyright (Fox does) and even so, it's clearly fair use. However, thanks to the "notice & takedown procedure," ISPs need to takedown the content when they're notified in order to remain free of liability. That means you can force ISPs to take down just about any content as long as you claim that your copyright material is hosted there. The site who was the victim of these DMCA takedowns had to switch hosting companies and deal with a number of other issues to keep their site up. The lawsuit is to ask for compensation for those troubles, as well as claim that, thanks to the DMCA, his free speech rights were taken away. The site in question, 10ZenMonkeys has its own explanation of the lawsuit.

The second case is somewhat similar, and was pointed out to us in our comments, and involves a case where a company sent a similar takedown notice to YouTube for a bunch of videos that had the tags "florida" and "football." The company in question, Collegiate Images, handles college media licenses, which apparently include the University of Florida. Beyond the fact that it's probably perfectly legal to post some of your own home videos or images of a college sporting event, there was another very big problem. One of the videos they sent the notice on had absolutely nothing to do with University of Florida football. It was a video that a guy filmed of a buddy of his "running around... like a goofball." In other words, Collegiate Images never bothered to actually look at the video and see if it infringed. They just sent takedown notices, and perfectly legitimate content got taken down. The guy this happened to (who wrote the blog post about it linked above) blames YouTube for the mistake -- but it's not their fault. They're simply following the DMCA notice and takedown procedures to keep them from being liable. The real problem is with both the DMCA and the company filing the questionable takedown notices. Either way, that's three cases this week alone that have shown how the DMCA is being repeatedly abused to force perfectly legal content offline. And yet, DMCA supporters insist there's no problem with it at all.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    kuronoir, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 2:43am

    copyright tags

    so just to be clear, they did a metadata tag search and decided that was enough? Wow. Plus it's florida football... I mean if it was Ohio State football I can see the issue... ;)

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 3:38am

    gr8, anyone who thinks microsoft is infringing copyrights?

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

  3. identicon
    Exiled From the mainstream, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 4:36am

    [Insert witty title here]

    I'm no legal expert but shouldn't they have dealt with this DMCA law already? I'm just wondering cuz with how often people abuse it to shut up their critics and try force a semi-monopoly of some kind on content I'd expect it to be reviewed or something. Then again this IS America.

    Woo yay for morons! Where the hells my plane ticket to Canada. Maybe I wont have to hurt my brain understanding legal blunders over there!

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

  4. identicon
    ScytheNoire, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 6:43am

    Man the US has some screwed up laws, the DMCA being the king of all stupid laws ever written. Did the politicians even read that crap before signing it? Oh, wait, silly me, they are politicians, they just get their pockets filled by the right companies and then do whatever those companies want, no matter how unconstitutional it is. Wonder if the politicians who signed it even know what the American Constitution is any more?

    American, Land of Hypocrisy.

    Glad to be Canadian.

    On that note, I wonder if they realize that we don't burn everything we download, and thus, that extra tax we pay on CD's and DVD's, well, it's useless, just store every thing on harddrives. I mean, I am now over a terabyte in storage. Silly fools. Here's to two terabytes next year.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 7:52am

    So, maybe I should send a DMCA infringment notice to the ISP for That would be a hoot to have it taken offline without merit.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 8:11am


    You totally should. But have fun in Syria, terrorist...

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

  7. identicon
    Dean, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 8:15am

    DMCA Copyright Infringement???

    I have just received notification of DMCA Copyright Infringement from our ISP. We are managing a fairly large ecommerce site for our client. The manufacturer of one of the products they sell decided to no longer distribute via this channel so in effect stopped supplying my client with the product. The product was a big seller and my client spent much time and money promoting the product on his site. In fact the product page has very good rankings on Google, second below the manufacturer when searching on the product name.

    What should the client have done? Take down the product page and lose all that good natural rankings? Instead he went out and found a competing product and changed the content on the product page to show a comparison between the new product he sells and the product he no longer is able to sell. It is clear that the product being sold is the new one. This is a brilliant move, with respect to SEO, because the page still maintains contextual relevancy when searching by the product name. Thus the product page is still number two when searching on Google by the product name.

    This is not sitting well with the manufacturer of the original product so what do they do? They get their attorneys involve and claim copyright infringement. Now our ISP is threatening to block the IP address. I am not an attorney but I think product comparisons are fair use and copyright laws are not meant to stop competition. The client is fighting it. If I get my clients approval I will disclose all the parties involved.

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

  8. identicon
    Wolfger, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 8:27am

    Thanks, EFF!

    Without the EFF around, how much worse would our internet be already? And thanks to sites like Techdirt for publicizing the lawsuits and (hopefully) discouraging people from further abusing an already bad law.

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

  9. identicon
    Kevin, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 9:05am

    Do you want to get this fixed?

    Go out and file DMCA takedown notices with ISPs for every major political campaign site in your area. I guarantee you that it will at least make the local news. If enough people do it, it will make the national news. And if any of the affected people get elected, they'll probably make a mental note to change that particular law when they get to congress.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 10:19am

    the case is about a guy who made a fake personal ad, claiming to be a young female looking for a sex partner. he then posted the "guys' responses with detailed info, including place of employment and pictures.

    how is he not able to be sued under the DMCA? although i find his "expierement" funny, he's just as guilty. because he "obtained" copyrights through fradulent means. right? coz if i give you a have the right to use it. if i give it to "dave" but you are tom....well...ya get the point.

    what is nice that DMCA is being used to "hurt" people instead of "help" them. i.e. that instead of taking "offensive" content, the DMCA is being used to protect "offensive" content.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 7:09pm


    There have been cases of large organizations filing bogus DMCA take-down notices, but they never seem to face repercussions. But when an individual does the same thing he gets a lawsuit filed against him. Fishy.

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

  12. identicon
    balonymous, Nov 23rd, 2006 @ 6:27am

    The worst part is...

    ...Panhandler commented here, on the issue, and admitted that he wasn't a passionate freedom fighter, just a person who hoped to see his video restored on You Tube. I came back to read that comment again and now it's gone? Pretty shitty thing for "Tech Dirt" to do. "You don't agree with us ENOUGH. You're out of the club." Very Jacobin. Let the guillotining begin.

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

  13. identicon
    balonymous, Nov 23rd, 2006 @ 6:30am

    My apologies

    His comment is in a different post [] on the same topic. My apologies.

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

  14. icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 23rd, 2006 @ 11:12am

    Re: The worst part is...

    I came back to read that comment again and now it's gone? Pretty shitty thing for "Tech Dirt" to do.

    The only comments we delete our spam. His comment is on a different post. Please do not jump to conclusions like that.

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

  15. identicon
    Improbulus, Aug 19th, 2007 @ 11:03am

    DMCA - BBC's first YouTube takedown

    By the way if anyone is interested in the story of the BBC's first YouTube takedown, using the DMCA, see this post. That really brought home to me how wide open to abuse the DMCA is.

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

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