Copyright As Censorship: Sketchy Food Scanning Company Abuses DMCA To Censor Critical Reporting

from the because-of-course dept

Another day, another example of copyright being used to censor. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a sketchy crowdfunded "food scanning device" company called TellSpec, which had ridiculously threatened the online publication Pando Daily with laughably ridiculous defamation claims. The threats were ridiculous for any number of reasons, including the fact that the statute of limitations had expired and the commentary wasn't even remotely defamatory. There were also some weird (and stupid) threats about suing in the UK, despite TellSpec being based in Toronto and Pando in the US. At some point, TellSpec then denied having made the threats, but that appeared to be pure damage control.

Not surprisingly, this reaction led Pando to continue to investigate TellSpec, and it discovered some more sketchiness, including another crowdfunding campaign which has since been pulled. Basically, despite the fact that TellSpec hasn't delivered the product it promised to Indiegogo users, and despite the evidence that the product they're working on doesn't even do what they promised (not by a long shot), TellSpec tried to raise more money via a different crowdfunding site -- Crowdfunder -- which focuses on equity crowdfunding for accredited investors (though Pando shows that Crowdfunder appears to make no effort at all to verify if users are accredited investors).

From there, Pando's Paul Carr got access to TellSpec's investment documents, in which it claims many of the basic features it promised years ago won't be ready for years in the future, and suggests that it's still a long way off from delivering even a much more limited product (which it told Indiegogo backers it would start shipping by last month at the latest). Also, Carr notes that these documents never actually mention the details of the Indiegogo campaign (or mention Indiegogo at all), but rather suggest that the company has tons of "pre-orders" which they use to show how successful they are. This leaves out the frustrations from all the backers who haven't received anything, and who are doubting the company has a real product.

Carr posted those documents on Scribd as source documents to support his reporting... leading TellSpec to (1) send him angry and bizarre threatening emails and (2) issue a DMCA takedown to Scribd, leading Scribd to cave and take them down (be careful who you partner with, people).

has posted my copyrighted/trademarked work without my permission.

I am (choose one): * 
the duly authorized representative of the exclusive rights holder

for the following titles: 
Tellspec Executive Summary 09-30-2015 3 

These exclusive rights are being violated by material available on Scribd at the following URLs (include as many as necessary): *

I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law. * I agree

Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question. * I agree

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you.

Your full legal name (required) * 
Isabel Hoffmann

Company name (if applicable) 
Tellspec Inc.

Physical address: * 7B Pleasant Blvd, suite 991 
Toronto, ON M4T 1K2 
Email address: * [redacted by Pando]
Phone number: [redacted by Pando]

Pando has now learned that you should not use Scribd if you're a journalism outfit. Once Pando started complaining publicly, Scribd agreed to put the documents back, but it shouldn't take public condemnation to stop copyright misuses for the sake of censorship.

But, more importantly, we get yet another example of people using the DMCA for censorship, rather than to protect against any legitimate "copyright infringement." And this is the regime some people think is worth expanding?!?

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Filed Under: censorship, copyright, crowdfunding, dmca takedown, food scanner
Companies: crowdfunder, pando, scribd, tellspec

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2015 @ 4:40pm

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

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