Ecuador Continues To Use US Copyright Law To Censor Critics

from the but-copyright-isn't-about-censorship,-right? dept

A few years ago, we highlighted an absolutely ridiculous claim by a pro-copyright expansion think tank, arguing that it was a myth that copyright could ever be used for censorship. In that article, we listed out a number of examples of copyright being used absolutely for reasons of censorship, including a few by government actors. But, by far, one of the worst abusers of copyright law (and US copyright law specifically) to censor critical speech is the government of Ecuador. We've written a few times about Ares Rights, a Spanish company that was regularly sending DMCA notices in the US to try to suppress any kind of criticism of Ecuador's government (and also on criticism of Ares Rights).

These stories demonstrated fairly blatant abuse of the DMCA, as none of the stories in question involved copyright infringement in the slightest. There was no reason for the takedown other than to hide content that the Ecuadorian government didn't like. Last fall, Buzzfeed took the story one step further, in getting access to some leaked documents proving that Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, used the country's intelligence budget to censor critical content, often using copyright takedown requests.
The records, seen by BuzzFeed News, show that at least one contract, for just under $4.7 million, was signed with a Mexican company that then successfully removed material from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Dailymotion.

Videos removed by the company, which filed weekly reports on successful deletions, included a critical documentary by filmmaker Santiago Villa, an electoral broadcast from a rival accusing Correa of behaving like a dictator, a video from a former aide to Correa’s wife alleging persecution, and a report of a jailbreak from Ecuador’s highest-security prison.
The article makes the Ares Rights connection, though noting that it appears that Ares Rights was brought in as a subcontractor to the original company the government hired.

If you thought this publicity on the censorship-by-US copyright law plan might cause Ecuador and Ares Rights to back off, you'd be wrong. A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, notes that Ecuador and Ares Rights continue an active campaign to censor critics by abusing US copyright law.

On December 30, César Ricaurte, the executive director of Fundamedios, received a copyright complaint with the potential to close his entire website. The complaint, filed on behalf of Ecuador's communications regulator SECOM by a company called Ares Rights, ordered the independent press freedom group to remove an image of President Rafael Correa from its website, he told CPJ.

The incident, which Fundamedios denounced on its website as censorship, is an example of how copyright complaints have been used against Ecuadoran news outlets and groups critical of the Correa administration.

The article, among other things, notes that Ares Rights and Ecuador are relying, in part, on the fact that various US trade agreements and treaties mean that companies need to "respect" the copyrights from foreign countries, and that's why the DMCA is an effective tool, even if all of the parties are outside of the US.

Either way, this should certainly reinforce the fact that copyright is frequently used for censorship. Sometimes it's censorship that many people approve of, such as blocking someone merely making use of someone else's work -- and sometimes it's used to censor political criticism. Until people recognize, however, that copyright is absolutely (and regularly) used for censorship, it's difficult to have any realistic discussion of how to prevent the abusive kind of censorship with kinds that people may find more reasonable.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 8:40am

    Not a bug

    This is not a bug, it's a feature. Copyright has long ceased being a tool to promote progress of science and arts and is instead a toll of control. That is, if it has ever performed such role of promoting anything other than control at any point in history.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 9:09am

    and the USA still cannot get it's head around the fact that when it behaves badly, using the wrong things to protect the wrong things, because it just goes ahead anyway, then a good deal of the rest of the Planet follows it. it's even more ludicrous because the USA then condemns and/or criticizes those countries for doing what they did even though they copied the template from the USA!

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 9:19am

    Guess we know which country WON'T be showing up on the special 301 report.

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

  4. icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 9:21am

    Re: Not a bug

    > [copyright...] is instead a toll of control

    This was obviously a typo.

    Clearly, you must have meant: a TROLL of control. Copyright trolling is the second major thing copyright is used for after censorship and as a tool of control.

    (Wish TD had a mandatory preview before submitting. Extra credit: in-place preview instead of on a new page.)

    The third major purpose of copyright is to promote the profits of mega corporations that exploit artists and creators.

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

  5. icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 9:22am

    Gee, I wonder where Ecuador learned how to abuse copyright?

    Probably from the US where copyright is the first tool the censors reach for.

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

  6. icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 9:23am

    Re: Gee, I wonder where Ecuador learned how to abuse copyright?

    Let's not forget the recent TD article where China now owns copyright interest in images it will definitely want to censor.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 10:47am

    Adding to suggestion (was Re: Re: Not a bug)

    ...Extra credit: in-place preview instead of on a new page...


    Better yet: open new page for preview and leave comment page open, allowing refresh of comments before submitting.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 11:06am

    But how would authors get paid if there was no censorship?!

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

  9. identicon
    Digitari, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 1:57pm

    DMCA

    Does Make Censorship Affordable.......

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

  10. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 4:15pm

    Copyright, there is noting it can't do... so long as we ignore the abuses and keep the poor open for more abuse.

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

  11. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Jan 29th, 2016 @ 5:26am

    Re: Adding to suggestion (was Re: Re: Not a bug)

    I'm a serial mis-typist myself, but I know that if I just took the time to type out my posts on Notepad (every PC ships with it, just go to Start and type "Notepad" into the search box), then copy and paste them into the comments box, I'd make fewer errors.

    Mind you, I'm a bit lazy so unless it's a long reply I generally can't be bothered to do that.

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

  12. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Jan 29th, 2016 @ 5:28am

    Re: DMCA

    This comment should be both Last Word and LOL of the week. Good one, Digitari!

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2016 @ 4:08am

    Let me guess - Whatever thinks this is "major bullcrap" too, and not for the reasons that it actually is.

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


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