I heard about this story last week, but it took a while to sort through all of the details. There were reports out there that the romance author Adele Dubois had been sent a DMCA takedown. Most of the reports were a bit vague, and then the Washington Post had a very confused writeup
that bounced back and forth between copyright and trademark, without bothering to mention that you cannot
use a DMCA notice for trademark issues (and also pointing much more of a finger at Google than was warranted).
I've now been able to see the full DMCA notice (which is not yet up on ChillingEffects, but should be soon -- though I've included it below) and talk to a few people around this, and it appears that someone associated with Sony did, in fact, issue a DMCA takedown to Google, leading to a blog post by Adele Dubois being taken offline. Google has since reinstated the post, after reviewing the counternotice, so you can read it here
, though depending on your workplace, it may be marginally not safe for work (think erotic romance novel graphics and prose).
The DMCA takedown notice details are extremely sparse. It notes that the "copyright owner" is "XL SONY" and that the "Copyright work description" is "ADELE + EXITOS." It then lists out two URLs. One for "Location of the copyrighted work" and one for "Location of infringing material." It's not clear what the difference is here, but the first one takes you to a sales page for a totally different (and unrelated) romance book, whose author runs the blog where the Adele Dubois post was. The author of that book, Marianne Stephens, notes that she holds all the copyright on that particular book, and isn't clear why it's in the DMCA notice. The second link (location of infringing material) is the link listed above. The only
connection that seems to be made is the fact that the famous singer Adele is on Sony, and the author of the blog post (and the erotic romance novel it talks about) has the pen name Adele Dubois (a name she's used since well before the singer Adele became a professional singer). Either way, there's no copyright in just the name Adele. The word Exitos seems totally irrelevant to anything.
Google, as it does in these situations, reverted the blog post to "private," and then upon reviewing the counternotice turned the blog post back on. It's not entirely clear from the notice who actually sent the takedown. It's possible that it was an overaggressive representative of Sony. What does seem clear is that whoever sent it was just doing some sort of quick automated takedown effort without any real review -- even though the takedown notice says:
I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
In the Washington Post article, the author suggests that Google should have gotten "to the bottom of this" before taking the content down. While that would be nice, the problem is not so much with Google as with the law itself, the DMCA. Because of the way the DMCA is structured, companies that don't take down content first and review the details later face significant liability if the content turns out to be infringing. The law basically says, if you want immunity from liability, you have to first pull the content offline. So Google followed that procedure. As we've noted, this part of the DMCA potentially violates the First Amendment
, but has yet to be tested in court.
That said, you can see why it's so frustrating to the recipient. It's not at all clear from the notice that Google's Blogger passed on to the blog owners the information on who really issued the takedown, or even what, exactly, they were claiming. The bizarre link to the totally unrelated book doesn't help matters, but only serves to confuse them further. Combine that with the threat that this can lead to a "strike" against an account and you can see why some recipients of notices like this get pretty worried.
In the end, this looks like yet another of an all too common phenomenon (and one we've dealt with
ourselves). Companies file automated or questionable (or insanely vague) DMCA notices all the time, and the structure of the law encourages companies who receive them to pull the content offline immediately and sort out the mess later.