Putting Together A Database Of Bogus DMCA Takedowns

from the interesting-move dept

Over the years, we've written many, many stories of completely bogus DMCA takedowns. It's a pretty common occurrence. Sometimes it's done accidentally by clueless bots (or clueless humans). Sometimes it's done maliciously. We just had a case that appeared especially egregious, involving a site copying another sites' articles, then claiming copyright over the originals in order to take down the original stories (which just happened to paint a professor in a very poor light for allegedly faking parts of some high profile research). That story inspired David Weekly (founder of PBWiki, HackerDojo, SuperHappyDevHouse and a few other things) to do something: he set up the site DMCAInjury.com, which is just a simple Google spreadsheet input form at this point, but hopefully can become something much more.

David has pointed out that it would be handy to have some more cases in which the filers of bogus DMCA notices are actually punished for their actions under section 512(f) of the DMCA. As we discussed last year, it's very difficult to win a 512(f) claim, in part because the language is so vague and so far courts have interpreted it pretty narrowly.

However, as David points out, there have been some successful cases, including the case that the EFF ran against Diebold nearly a decade ago. David was actually one of the plaintiffs in that case. If you don't remember, someone had leaked some internal documents from Diebold (makers of e-voting machines) which showed the company was well aware of massive security problems with their machines. Diebold first tried to claim the documents were fake and then used the DMCA to claim they were covered by Diebold's copyright and that it could issue takedowns on them. As you might have noticed, those two claims would contradict each other. Either way, a judge pointed out that:
"no reasonable copyright holder could have believed that portions of the e-mail archive discussing possible technical problems with Diebold's voting machines were protected by copyright."
The problem, of course, is that there just aren't that many such cases (there are a few scattered ones, including the Lenz case we've been talking about recently). So finding such cases, and actually having them go to court could be useful -- though I still think strengthening the ability to punish bogus DMCA notices would be helpful (well, and changing the entire DMCA takedown process, but that's another post for another day). Via email, David admits that this is just a "trial balloon" to see if it turns up any interesting cases of bogus takedowns that might make for good 512(f) cases. And that would be good, though the weaknesses of 512(f) still make it pretty difficult to find ideal cases, even as we see DMCA abuses all the time.

Even with that being the case, if this effort doesn't turn up bogus takedown notices for new cases, at the very least, perhaps it will create a useful dataset to explore the nature and frequency of bogus DMCA takedowns.

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  1. icon
    mockingbird (profile), 7 Feb 2013 @ 11:07am

    Re:

    I see this as the same as organizations that focus on police misconduct. the point is that the misconduct is bad, it doesn't detract from the erm.. proper beatings delivered by police, but there's a particular focus to not let abuse in the system be ignored because "1%" is perfectly acceptable.
    except, it's not perfectly acceptable, and god forbid it's 10%. so, if you want to focus on correct actions by... police or correctly applied take down notices, feel free to start a site devoted to that.
    I'm more interested in being aware of abuses of power, the twisting of logic, effectively keeping an eye on an ever more powerful and irrational legal body.

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