Copyright Alliance Attacks As 'Repugnant,' Wants DMCA System With No Public Accountability

from the stop-publishing-legals-forms-and-sworn-statements! dept

Sandra Aistars of the Copyright Alliance issued a statement during the recent DMCA-related hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee. As was noted earlier, a bunch of effort was made to turn the "notice and takedown" system into a "notice and stay down" system, and weirdly, the word "free" was thrown about as if it was synonymous with "infringement."

Her statement details the shortcomings of the DMCA system from the expected position, citing the personal travails of creators like Kathy Wolfe, who for some reason has chosen to spend half her profits battling infringement. In general, it painted a bleak picture for future creativity, claiming that unless infringement is massively curbed, creators will stop creating. (There seems to be no place in this argument about the lowered barriers to entry, and the swell of creation that has enabled.)

But where her statement really goes off the rails (even for the Copyright Alliance) is with the attack on the popular copyright notice clearinghouse, Chilling Effects.

The activities of are repugnant to the purposes of Section 512. Data collected by high-volume recipients of DMCA notices such as Google, and senders of DMCA notices such as trade associations representing the film and music industries demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices sent are legitimate, yet the site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 as proponents of censorship. Moreover, by publishing the personal contact information of the creators sending notices (a practice which Chilling Effects only recently discontinued), it subjects creators to harassment and personal attacks for seeking to exercise their legal rights. Finally, because the site does not redact information about the infringing URLs identified in the notices, it has effectively become the largest repository of URLs hosting infringing content on the internet.
How publishing an unaltered takedown notice "maligns" the sender isn't explained. All Aistars says about it is that it's "unfair" because the site name links takedown notices with "censorship." But she glosses over the DMCA's status as the go-to tool for censorious entities -- something's that cheaper and easier than hiring a lawyer to draft a C&D.

She also glosses over the fact that the site is purely voluntary and far from comprehensive. In trying to paint the entire DMCA process as deeply flawed (which it is, but not in the ways she claims…), Aistars cordons off the "Google" side of the internet and attempts to portray it as harmful to creators… by doing exactly what they've asked it to do.

Her argument (if it can even be called that) makes as much sense as those griping about the fact that YouTube notes the party issuing the takedown when it grants requests to remove infringing videos. According to those advancing the "it's not fair" argument, this information is irrelevant and only serves to make rightsholders "look bad." Well, if everything about the statement posted on the deleted videos is true, why is there so much complaining? You don't like the way the facts were delivered?

As for the claims of being harassed for issuing takedowns, those who issue bogus takedowns deserve whatever they get. Legitimate takedowns are generally free from abuse. And if legitimate takedowns are resulting in "harassment" and "criticism," those siding with Aistars need to ask themselves why they care about the opinions of infringers.

Redacting the links makes no sense either. Infringers who use Chilling Effects as a piracy "address book" are probably so far down the scale as to be completely nonexistent. Not only is it a highly ineffective way to infringe, but, as noted above, Chilling Effects is purely voluntary and far from comprehensive.

It seems Aistars (and others) want a powerful anti-infringement tool but none of the responsibility that comes with it. Takedowns should just be honored (and content should "stay down) and filed away in the back of a cabinet somewhere. The public apparently isn't a stakeholder in this particular discussion (as is usually the case in IP-related debates). The Copyright Alliance is stumping for opacity, something that would be warmly received by censorious entities and shoddy copyright fighters whose mass takedowns have taken down tons of legitimate content over the years.

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