That Time EFF Got A Copyright Takedown Demand Of Its Own Artwork

from the you-have-to-be-kidding dept

Earlier this week, EFF received an email claiming that our body-camera police officer illustration (shown in the banner above) violated the sender's copyright in a graphic they used to illustrate a tweet (cropped screenshot shown below). The email demanded we remove the image or provide a link to their e-commerce website, which sells police body cameras. For those interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a link from EFF can be very beneficial to their page ranking. The funny thing was, the police officer illustration is an original EFF work.

It's not a problem for someone to use our works in their own—they are available to the public under a Creative Commons attribution license—but that certainly doesn't give a claim against our original. And their graphic had no attribution. (The Action Camera skateboarder illustration on the left appears to be an Adobe stock image.)

For EFF, this was more amusing than threatening. We knew instantly that we needn't worry about the implied threat, and if things went badly, we probably have more IP litigators per capita than any entity that's not a boutique IP litigation firm. So, we wrote back explaining the situation, and expect that will be the end of this.

But for many entities, it can be quite scary. Even if they are secure in their rights, the potential for a costly or time-consuming conflict may lead to a rational choice that a link is a low-cost solution. They might wonder if this misunderstanding will escalate into a DMCA takedown, potentially interfering with the availability of the page until the improper notice is resolved. Even if they disregard such a weak threat, dealing with it has the serious potential to take time away from running their operation.

We have not named the email's sender. There is no indication that they are in the business of copyright trolling, it likely was a simple mistake, and we had no desire to use our platform to mobilize a shame campaign. Moreover, we're well aware of the Streisand effect and see no need to provide the very link they seek in our discussion of why they shouldn't have demanded a link. Instead, we hope that this example serves to show how copyright demands can be misused. Below is our response:

Dear [NAME REDACTED],

I am the General Counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and am writing in response to your email of September 10, in which you asserted that the illustration of a police officer in our Body Warn Camera page, https://www.eff.org/pages/body-worn-cameras, violated your company's rights in the image used in your July 4 tweet, and demanded that we remove the illustration or provide a commercial link to your company on the eff.org website.

As an initial matter, please allow me to correct a fundamental mistake. The illustration on our page is an original image created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, specifically our talented Art Director Hugh D'Andrade. Accordingly, you have no right to ask EFF, or anyone else, to remove our illustration, much less to provide your company with links or other benefits in exchange for its use. To the extent that you have sent similar demands to anyone else regarding our illustration, you will need to retract them immediately.

This is not to say that you can never use our illustration. In addition to your rights under fair use and fair dealing, EFF makes its content available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States (CC BY 3.0 US) license, see https://www.eff.org/copyright. Thus, you would have had permission to use our illustration in your tweet if you had simply complied with the attribution requirement. If you wish to continue to use the police officer illustration, please be sure to comply with these license terms.

Finally, while we understand your desire to get links to your company's website (and the SEO value of a link from EFF), we are disappointed and surprised that you would use copyright threats to try to make that happen. Baseless copyright threats are an ongoing problem for the Internet (see examples in our Takedown Hall of Shame https://www.eff.org/takedowns). Rather than contributing to that problem, we suggest that you and your company endeavor to earn that attention through the quality of your offerings.

In order to better educate the public about the issues with copyright demands, please note that we are blogging about your email and this response, but will endeavor to keep your name and the name of your company out of it.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

best regards,

Kurt

-------------------------------
Kurt Opsahl, kurt@eff.org
Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/
ph: +1 415.436.9333 x 106 \\ fx: +1 415.436.9993 \\ @kurtopsahl

Reprinted from the EFF's Deeplinks blog.

Filed Under: cc-by, copyright, dmca, fair use, takedown
Companies: eff


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    'Lightning' Rod Bolton, 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:06am

    Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT YOURS!

    The funny thing was, the police officer illustration is an original EFF work.

    Please read this:

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20190910/17343842967/intellectual-property-is-neither-intell ectual-property-discuss.shtml

    By the above piece, "your" (the word here is possessive pronominal adjective for EFF) organization cannot have artwork which is "yours" (meaning "that or those belonging to you": "possession" in any sense of that word).

    You are trying to claim a non-existent merely "government-granted monopoly" over an "infinite" good. No matter who or how many claim possession -- even if false as you seem to mistakenly believe when doesn't belong to YOU, either! -- you still have "your" graphic and are none the poorer!

    Because it's not "your" graphic, you have NO right to object or defend, not even enough right to put out this bit of snark.

    The whole "your" notion is a BIT trickier than you think. (I adapt that from the Monty Python Robin Hood sketch, because I'm not a thief and attribute when can.)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:17am

      Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT YOUR

      I copied that from the Monty Python Robin Hood sketch, because I'm a thief

      FTFY

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 12:10pm

        Re: A liar and a thief walk into a pirate themed bar

        I stole that from the Monty Python Robin Hood sketch, because I'm a thief and a pirate

        Using blue balls own words

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:17am

      Re: Even if "you" Troll

      Heya Blue Balls - You still can't steal time or ideas. Just apples.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: Even if "you" Troll

        Blue could not even be a proper pirate matey

        Look at him.
        If this was a any thief style game: he would have set of off every alarm i the heist.

        Never want him in me crew☠️

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

      • identicon
        David, 12 Sep 2019 @ 12:13pm

        Re: Re: Even if "you" Troll

        You sure can steal time or ideas. I wanted to add something like "just not in the legal sense", but the legal sense does not even know "steal" rather than "theft". Crimes are labeled through nouns rather than verbs.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:24am

      Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT YOUR

      Questions on if the illustration is property do not impact questions of who owns the copyright in an image. The EFF notes that it exercises a light touch with its government granted rights, and as such is widely allowed to make use of the image the EFF has rights to, but for that party to claim ownership of the rights to the image would be false.

      If you take the language of your linked article and untangle the existing conflation of the image and the government granted rights to the image that your linked article clearly notes is a problem with our current discussion, nothing the EFF says here conflicts with the TechDirt article.

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

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT

        Dammit. "...and as such the other party in this dispute is widely allowed..." was the intended statement.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:29am

      Whether IP laws should be a thing is irrelevant to whether IP laws are currently a thing — and whether EFF owns the copyright on that image. Even you should know that.

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

    • icon
      timlash (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:52am

      Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT YOUR

      Well you effectively stole this comment thread for your own purpose. So there's that.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 7:57pm

      Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'

      Once again, Blue proves only that he has zero capacity for reading comprehension.

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

  • icon
    Sneeje (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:30am

    Being a copyright maximalist clearly means being very careful to misunderstand basic things about reality.

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:36am

      Re:

      Being a copyright maximalist clearly means being very careful to misunderstand basic things about reality.

      Especially when Blue Balls makes the claim that he's against Corporations and Government. Clearly he loves his corporate overlords and wants bigger government control.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      There's nothing careful about it, it's pure unadulterated willful misunderstanding.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 12:56pm

    Obviously rhe original letter was sent by someone who has no idea what the EFF does or stands for.

    Whoever sent the letter needs a refresher course in how to Google your target before sending out demand letters.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 1:37pm

    And that is why you check your targets first...

    I'm not sure which is funnier, that they legitimately believed they had a valid claim and thought they could strongarm the gorram EFF into giving them more traffic, or they knew their claim was bogus and thought by sending a threat letter they could get attention and traffic anyway.

    Either way though it would seem their demands have rather nicely blown up in their faces, and all that's left is to pick up any stray popcorn kernels from the entertainment they provided making public fools of themselves.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 3:32pm

      Re: And that is why you check your targets first...

      Even Prenda knew enough to steer clear of the EFF.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 3:35pm

      Re: And that is why you check your targets first...

      I'd almost guess this was the product of an automated search service that had no idea who would be in the final list to send threats to. This is just the kind of stupidity that results from automated services.

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

    • identicon
      Canuck, 13 Sep 2019 @ 3:28pm

      Re: And that is why you check your targets first...

      How did they make public fools of themselves? Do you know who they are?

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

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 16 Sep 2019 @ 5:46am

        Re: Re: And that is why you check your targets first...

        Canuck, they made private fools of themselves, that's why we don't know who they are.

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

  • identicon
    Virgil Ante, 12 Sep 2019 @ 1:55pm

    Good thing this was handled so well,

    otherwise the plaintiff might have been getting a copy of some large files from my old backup OS on D:\DOS

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 2:03pm

    What's with all the "Re: Even if "your" original, according to Techdirt IT'S NOT YOUR" replies?
    Are people quoting some comment that got deleted?
    If so, what did the comment say?

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 2:12pm

      Re:

      It's just hidden, as in down voted by the community. You can see it by clicking on the underlined Click Here. It's the first comment.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 12 Sep 2019 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      It's still there, just hidden because the community flagged it as stupid. You can click on the "click here" control to show the original post. It's a doozy of bad grammar and idiocy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 4:15pm

    I love to come in here to read the comments and not have to wade through Blueball's and his other thousand aliases BS. I'd like to thank the community for their outstanding service to the site.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2019 @ 5:59pm

    Copyright enforcement just can't seem to NOT staff its ranks with crash test dummies that have souls full of dog shit, can they?

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

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 12 Sep 2019 @ 11:24pm

    So Another Copyright Troll Got Told To ...

    ... EFF off?

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


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