Last year, we wrote about how Twitter was receiving a ton of DMCA takedown notices
. That seemed pretty strange to us, because with such short messages, there's little that could be covered by copyright. For the most part, such notices seemed like an abuse of the DMCA, literally claiming that a link to a URL was infringing itself, which is a pretty big stretch. A link by itself hardly passes the inducement test. Twitter, as we noted a year and a half ago, unfortunately, appears to be giving too much credence
to such notices -- especially in cases where the tweet is a link to a webpage which possibly links to content elsewhere. That's so far removed, arguing that Twitter is responsible in any way is just ridiculous.
Yet it appears that Twitter hasn't just kept up this practice, but has made it worse. There was a bit of a fuss among some popular hiphop blogs in the last few days as certain Twitter feeds connected to one such blog disappeared. That is, they didn't just take down the tweets in question, but flat out suspended the account. RapRadar
, whose twitter feeds were impacted, was not at all pleased, posting this complaint on its website:
If you can't read that, it says:
This lil blue bird keeps fuckin' with us! First you shut down our @RapRadar account cuz 50 and Em went "Psycho" and last night you wanna pull the plug on @RapRadarDotCom with no fair warning. Man, I thought it was gonna be smooth sailing like Chris Cross after a yellow nigga got verified. The kid @ElliottWilson is creepin' on 40K followers but you won't let my company breathe. This damn DMCA ain't nuthin' ta f' wit. For the record: No site has supported the consumption of music legally more than RapRadar.com. Yeah we've provided free streams from day one but no download links unless its a free release. We also link back to iTunes constantly. We play the game the right way and what do we get for it? Shit, I'm not opposed to a lil preferential treatment. Ha! Can we live?
So... at this point, it looks like a totally and completely ridiculous DMCA takedown claim. Let's connect the dots:
- DMCA notice goes to Twitter, complaining about a tweet with a link in it
- Rather than pointing out that a mere link is not infringing, Twitter suspends the account
- That link doesn't even link to infringing content. Instead it links to a blog page
- That blog page doesn't even link to infringing content. Instead, it links to official free releases, official streams... and iTunes for purchases.
Now, I recognize that Twitter is just playing the legal game here. If it receives a DMCA notice, it goes straight to takedown mode. Thanks to the way the DMCA safe harbors are written, it's tough not to obey a DMCA takedown notice, because otherwise you face legal liability if there is infringement. But it doesn't mean you have
to take down the content. In bogus situations you can say so and refuse to take down the content (something that we've done
in the past).
I reached out to Twitter to see if I could understand why they would suspend such accounts, and got a link to their DMCA policy
, which states:
We respond to valid claims of alleged copyright infringement such as the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as an account background or account avatar, or Tweets containing a link to allegedly infringing materials.
But that doesn't actually respond to the issue here. These were not links to infringing material. They were links to blog posts that linked to authorized material. Furthermore, Twitter told me that they provide those who are targeted with a takedown with "all info" from the claim including "who made it." This appears to be untrue. I've now seen a few of the takedown notices and they provide no such info, which makes this worse. Twitter users are forced to respond to questionable DMCA takedown claims on links to blog posts that aren't infringing, without even knowing who is issuing the takedown.
It seems like Twitter would have really strong reasons for refusing such takedowns. Twitter could easily point out that a link to a webpage is simply not infringing, thus they're not hosting any infringing content included in the DMCA notice. Instead, it doesn't just block that single tweet but suspends an entire account? That's ridiculous overkill... and exactly what whoever is issuing the takedown notice wants. Even worse, by not providing the information on who filed the takedown, the whole process is completely blind. It's censorship by DMCA takedown with Twitter helping out. That's really unfortunate for a company that has a history of standing up to legal bullies.