by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
dmca, takedowns


WordPress A Bit Too Quick In Doing DMCA Takedowns

from the that's-unfortunate dept

It's becoming increasingly common for companies to try to go up the network stream with various takedown messages. Rather than just hitting a website with a takedown over certain content, they'll also hit their ISP and their registrar. What's unfortunate is that these higher level service providers are often less willing to take the time to understand the specifics, and are quick to pull the plug to avoid liability for themselves. With WordPress becoming a larger and larger ISP for many blogs, it's getting a lot more such requests.

It's unfortunate that the company is responding to them in misleading ways. For example, it recently took down some content and blocked the ability to post any new content, based on a DMCA takedown message claiming, incorrectly, that "we were legally required to remove the file from our servers." That's not quite true. First, Wordpress is not legally required to do so. It is true that the company is certainly strongly incentivized to do so, since not doing so could open it up to liability, but that's not the same as saying they're legally required to do this.

However, in this case, the details look even worse. The "content" in question was merely a link from a blog to an unauthorized version of an ebook. The author of the blog, which talks about ebooks, was complaining about certain ebooks not being available:
In a blog post, Ricardo had bemoaned the fact that a book, Ken Follett's 'Fall of Giants,' wasn't available in Spanish on the Kindle. He noted, however, that the publishers of the book didn't mind people converting other formats but presumably to save people the bother of messing with DRM removal, he linked to an already converted copy hosted on a file-hosting service.
The local IP "protection" group posted a comment on the site, demanding he take that down, and when he either didn't notice the comment or didn't realize it was real, they went to WordPress, claiming that he had ignored their takedown request. Furthermore, as the article notes, under Spanish law, a link to infringing content is not, itself, infringing. In the US (where the servers were likely hosted -- so it could have an impact), links are still something of a gray area, unfortunately. Of course, it's rather amusing, as noted in the TorrentFreak article that the very first comment on that particular story complains that "the link doesn't work." So this whole thing may have been over absolutely nothing...

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  1. icon
    jilocasin (profile), 17 Nov 2010 @ 6:54am

    Re: DMCA Take-downs

    Hmmm... where to begin;

    No one was stealing anything, you were waiting for someone to say it, so there it is. Copyright infringement _isn't_ stealing.

    The blogger wasn't 'giving away property', since there was no actual property to give. If people actually took _actual_ items from Mike's hypothetical locker, that would be stealing.

    Files are like ideas. Unless someone handed you an actual CD or some other physical medium, no one transfers anything. Think about that for a second. When I 'download' a file; this web page, a copy of Open Office, anything, what _actually_ happens? Does some mystical copy machine in the sky make a copy, chop it into little bits and send them to me? If that was the case, then all I would need is just enough hard drive space to run my OS and web browser. I could go on a downloading spree and notice that my hard drive 'magically' grew to several terabytes. But that's not what happens. What happens is that you download the instructions to use up some of your own memory or hard drive space rearranging it into the same pattern as the program, song, e-book, etc. Computers are the ultimate in green technology. Everything you download, watch, read, create, is made of 100% recycled bits.

    If people went to Mike's hypothetical locker and got instructions on how to make their own copies of everything in it, that would be a closer match. Even then though it falls down. In your case you would be providing third parties with access to Mike's things. This case would be more like Mike providing anyone interested with instructions of how to get their own copy of something of his.

    The person who posted the link, posted it to a file that someone else _wanted_ the world to see.

    It would be like if I went to a bulletin board and posted the recipe for my grand mother's great mystery cookies in the local natural living food store. Then someone else noticed my recipe and posted their own note at the local college library. "Want a really good cookie recipe, there's one posted on the natural living food store's bulletin board".

    A cookie factory wants the entire bulletin board taken down, because when they asked that the "link" to the recipe they felt "infringed" on their "natural right" to bake cookies wasn't removed, they had no other choice.

    Unlike cookies, or books, or music CD's, computers can now share instructions on how other computers can rearrange their own resources to create an exact copy of what ever they have a copy of. Combine this with the ability to store stories, programs, music, video, etc. as the simple rearrangement of ones and zeros and you are where you're at today.

    There is No Natural Right to hoard ideas. If you don't want other people to know about your ideas then don't tell anyone. Previously it was very cumbersome, costly, unwieldy to create copies of ideas. You needed lots of monks with time on their hands. This became lots of printing presses, then lots of record pressing machines. The only way to get a copy was to transcribe it yourself (for books) or pay someone who had the means (industry) to create them. Record companies, book publishers, etc.

    When the recordable audio tape, and VHS, and the Xerox machine were created we started to see things change, stress fractures appeared in the establishment. But these were analog copies, and they required to recipient to purchase, blank tapes (cassettes or VHS) or paper and ink (Xerox copy machines). Now we have 'green' technology, a 500GB hard drive can be had for under $50 US. You can reuse that space for many things, all you need are the instructions on how to rearrange those ones and zeros. Convert some of _your_ hard drive space into a story, read the story. Get tired of it, rearrange it into an collection of songs or a movie, you like that music, save it to a CD-ROM, and reuse that hard drive space for something else.

    People no longer _need_ an industrial gatekeeper to create and disseminate copies of ideas. There was a time when people could only hear about what was in the bible from priests. It was written in a language that most people couldn't read, and even if they could, there weren't that many bibles around. The printing press got copies into the hands of literate people, in languages that they could read themselves. It helped spark the Protestant Reformation (well the abuses of those in power helped as well).

    Here we are at Gutenberg all over again. There is no natural right to ideas, people aren't stealing property (no ones busting into Walmart and making off with an isle worth of CD's). People are only sharing ideas, trading recipes on how to make parts of their own hard drives into copies of what their neighbors hard drive contains.

    Morally there's nothing wrong with this. Financially, its devastating to those people who make large sums of money over controlling the means of duplicating ideas.

    The only reason it's even a little bit illegal is that we are living in a corrupt and bankrupt time. The Golden Rule of 'he who has the gold makes the rules'. The shortsighted greed that lead to our current economic climate, where the rich will get richer, at least until the system collapses.

    Prohibition has shown us that laws that make everyone criminals aren't effective and can't last. We have been making the same mistake with the 'war on drugs', and even worse with the 'war on ideas'. At least with alcohol and drugs, some people didn't partake. Asking people not to partake of sharing ideas is like asking people not to breath. In the end it just can't be done.

    How many people will have their lives ruined until the powers that be realize this?

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