Copyright As Censorship: Comic Artist Uses DMCA To Censor Critical Blogs

from the because-isn't-that-what-copyright-is-for? dept

Another in our series on copyright being used for censorship. Pointed out by Kevin Carson, comic artist Randy Queen, the author of Darkchylde has apparently filed a bunch of DMCA takedown notices against posts on the Escher Girls Tumblr page -- which "archives and showcases the prevalence of certain ways women are depicted" in various pop media, including comics. It appears that Queen did not like being criticized in this manner.
And, yes, it does appear that the Tumblr made use of his artwork -- after all that's what it does -- but it seems like a fairly clear case of fair use, given the purpose and nature of the account. Furthermore, the creators of the site note that other critical posts on other Tumblrs have apparently been removed, but they haven't found any positive versions of his work removed:
So yesterday I found out that Randy Queen (artist of DarkChylde) filed a bunch of DMCA takedown notices to Tumblr to remove posts of his covers on this blog (the entire posts, not just the images). I’ve also gotten messages from other users that he’s had their stuff removed too (redraws, etc that have been featured here). Non-critical Tumblr posts of his art/covers and those praising his work appear to be unaffected.
The folks behind Escher Girls apparently aren't inclined to fight it (and even say they don't wish to pick a fight with Queen), but are just informing people of what's going on. Still it is troubling. It's worrisome that Queen appears to be abusing the DMCA in this manner. It's unfortunate that Tumblr just gave in. It's disappointing that Escher Girls apparently isn't even going to file a counternotice.

The end result is the same again: copyright is being used for censorship of criticism, rather than as an incentive for creativity.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Michael, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:05am

    copyright is being used for censorship of criticism, rather than as an incentive for creativity

    But just think of how many artists don't want to put their work out there because they fear criticism! If nobody can be critical of art, there could be so much more!

     

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

  2.  
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    S. T. Stone, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:14am

    Once again, I’d like to posit the theory that copyright used in this way constitutes a First Amendment violation (since the government grants copyright, natch).

     

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

  3.  
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    Darth Colonel Sanders, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    If a bad review is censored then shouldn't a good review get censored?

     

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

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Remember that time when someone issued a takedown notice for one of Techdirt's posts? Why didn't you fight that one, Mike? I guess it's just "unfortunate" that you didn't file suit to go after the abuser. All bark and no bite, I suppose.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    Negative criticism is costing content creators quadrillions of copyright dollars per second!

     

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

  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:41am

    Why fight it?

    Those URLs are enough of a critique of Randy Queen's "art."

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymously Brave, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 9:57am

    Sauce for the goose...

    Perhaps we should help Queen out and send takedown requests for the positive posts on his behalf.

     

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

  8.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 10:25am

    Re: Sauce for the goose...

    Don't be silly - you'd have to represent yourself as the copyright owner, and NO one EVER does that - the consequences are dire!

     

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

  9.  
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    Rich, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Sauce for the goose...

    Yes, to paraphrase Grandpa Simpson, "you'll get the frowning of a lifetime!"

     

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

  10.  
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    Adam, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 10:55am

    vaguness in threats = hallmark of legal thuggery

    the artist in question has just recently contacted the EscherGirls blogger and threatened to sue for defamation - because of her (remarkably innocuous) blog post describing the situation.
    https://i.imgur.com/DjwCjcy.png

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    Re: vaguness in threats = hallmark of legal thuggery

    Isn't misuse of DMCA defamation?

     

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

  12.  
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    Lorpius Prime (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Unless eschergirls has changed dramatically in the last few months, the "folks" behind it are one young lady who runs it as a personal hobby blog. It's a shame she's being bullied this way, but I can't blame her at all for not wanting to deal with the legal hassle and risk of fighting back.

     

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  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    Re: vaguness in threats = hallmark of legal thuggery

    That letter is pretty interesting in its cluelessness, but this part was the most clueless of all: "my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today".

    1) There is no such right in copyright law
    2) If perception is his concern, he might start with not abusing the DMCA and then continuing to argue even after they already caved to his bogus filing.

    Also,

    "no good will come of this"

    He's right. But the bad will fall on him, not anyone else.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

    This is an outstanding fair use case:
    ... the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies ... for purposes such as criticism [or] comment ... is not an infringement of copyright.

    It also sounds like it might be an excellent DMCA 512(f) test case if he used a copyright claim to take down "entire posts, not just the images" -- since there's no way he has any rights to the entire posts.

    Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section—
    (1) that material or activity is infringing, or
    (2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,

    shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

     

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

  16.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 12:53pm

    well, he'll be happy to know...

    ...he's made *at least* one new enemy today...

    what would be the equivalent to a 'streisand effect' where you previously didn't know of a person's existence, but now that they've made themselves obnoxiously known, you decide you hate them ? ? ?

     

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  17.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    [CITATION NEEDED]

     

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

  18.  
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    Concerned Geek, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 6:52pm

    Common sense

    If he owns the image, and the site didn't ask permission to use it, then they have to take it down end of story. I'm getting sick of people pulling the feminism card every time a female blogger oversteps their boundaries. It really makes the geek culture look bad as a whole.

     

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  19.  
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    Whatever (profile), Aug 5th, 2014 @ 4:50am

    The end result is the same again: copyright is being used for censorship of criticism, rather than as an incentive for creativity.

    Damn, someone was killed with a hammer recently. Clearly the hammer industry needs to be abolished, as it's just being used for bad things.

     

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

  20.  
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    Rich, Aug 5th, 2014 @ 6:14am

    Re:

    It's ironic that you wrote that because that perfectly describes the DMCA, criminalizing tools because they COULD be used to commit a crime.

     

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

  21.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Aug 5th, 2014 @ 11:05am

    Re:

    Sounds good. After years of litigation you MIGHT get your lawyer-fees back. Well, if he has that much money.

    Please note the utter lack of punishment for doing this, all you can sue for is damages and those would be minimal.

     

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  22.  
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    Easily Amused (profile), Aug 5th, 2014 @ 11:57am

    Re: Common sense

    Feminism has nothing to do with this.

    There is an exception to copyright called fair use, pretty explicitly covering cases of criticism like this.

    The correct sequence of events should have been Tumblr rejecting the DMCA claim, but they will never do that because they are too scared. Barring that, the blogger should file a counter-notice, and then Tumblr should re-instate. It looks like the blogger doesn't want to deal with the fighting and fallout (because she probably doesn't have a lawyer on retainer...) so she's just rolling over, which is a shame but totally understandable.

     

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

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2014 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: vaguness in threats = hallmark of legal thuggery

    Not defamation, but perjury which is worse.

    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

     

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

  24.  
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    KevinCA, Aug 5th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Common sense

    Except that you're an idiot. This is a clear case of fair use, and your trotting out the strawman of feminism fails.

     

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

  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2014 @ 5:43pm

    Re:

    Damn, some industry executive could have been richer than he was recently. Clearly the VCR industry needs to be abolished, as it's just being used for bad things.

    Finally decided to log back in, eh fuckwit?

     

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

  26.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Aug 6th, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Sauce for the goose...

    You'd have to represent yourself as the copyright owner.

    No you wouldn't, you can simply claim to be the agent of the copyright holder.

     

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

  27.  
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    Sven Slootweg, Aug 6th, 2014 @ 1:38pm

    Re:

    The problem isn't that it's used for bad things. The problem is that the 'good parts' are completely absent, and it *only* causes bad things.

    So yeah, your hammer analogy doesn't really fly here.

     

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


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