04 October, 2013

Bad DMCA Takedowns Backfire

Yes, this photo is completely irrelevant! I took it yesterday with my phone, at the bus stop, while scribbling notes for this planned blog on the back of scrap paper.

Now, onto today's topic...

Microsoft recently fired its DMCA takedown service, apparently for sending too many false takedowns. http://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-ditches-anti-piracy-partner-after-embarrassing-dmca-takedowns-130927/

Many companies employ paid services to do this. Numerous individual artists I know have chosen to pass on the task of finding and removing infringements of their work to a pay service, too. Sometimes later, complaints emerge, that the company disappeared, isn't handling the work, is sending bogus takedowns, etc.  In my personal opinion, pay services are probably a false sense of security for individual artists. Though I recognize companies may need to hire them, clearly even those that cater to large companies don't always do a good job.  Perhaps it's another example of outsourcing gone bad?

Unless you learn how to do reverse image searches and send DMCA takedowns, you will never know how to evaluate the quality of a pay service's work. If you're going to have to learn it and check up, why not just DO it yourself in the first place?  (At least until or unless a service exists that does it right, and for a reasonable fee.)

Misdirected or erroneous takedowns make ALL copyright owners look bad. It lumps everyone into the same group, "copyright trolls," and damages our chances of keeping a valuable tool to combat actual infringements on our own work.

Bogus takedowns may be the result of making mistakes because of automated software that gets it wrong, people who are getting paid per takedown so speed is more important than accuracy, or just honest mistakes because they're not the owner and don't really know the work well enough.

These services seem to sweep through the net like tuna nets, missing some tuna and killing some dolphins in the process.  Anyone who has their work taken off their site erroneously is understandably livid. I read another photographer's complaint about this just yesterday, prompting me to blog about this growing problem.

How bogus takedowns hurt artists: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2013/10/02/repost-dmca-abuse-hurts-cintent-creators/

The DMCA takedown is a valuable tool for copyright owners, and we need to keep it. It's free, usually very effective, and we can do it ourselves. That some people or companies misuse it has given weight to infringers' arguments that this law should be done away with. That'd be disastrous for copyright owners who can't afford to sue over every infringement. Doing away with the DMCA would also expose website hosts to liability. The purpose of the DMCA is actually to protect site hosts; it just happens to be a great tool for copyright owners as well.

Another way takedowns are abused is to silence free speech. E.g., when a company finds online complaints they may use the DMCA takedown process to try and shut down a complaint site. This is abuse of the law, and this type of misuse is covered on sites like ChillingEffects.org.

To learn more about how to find and remove infringements of your work online, see my journal on Redbubble. I put this info together originally so that it'd be in one handy place for my own use. Others asked me to share it, then others helped me add to it. It has grown quite large and ponderous now, but I've marked all the basic stuff with a banner, so you can leave the details for later if it's Too Much Information now.

Art Theft, Copyright Infringement, find it, act on it: http://www.redbubble.com/people/cschnack/journal/7750976-art-theft-copyright-infringement-find-it-act-on-it

(For those who don't know, DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A Takedown is a formal notice to a site host that is displaying infringements. The site host is obligated to remove the infringement upon receiving a valid takedown notice. Only the copyright owner or their authorized agent can usually send a takedown.  There is a counter-notice process built into it, and site hosts are supposed to restore infringements if the takedown was erroneous.  Statements made in a takedown or counter notice must be true under penalty of perjury.)