Mr. InterWebz, Take Down that Datum!

Take down notices, intended under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to expedite the process of removing copyrighted content from sites where it has been illegally posted, are on the verge of becoming their own field of study.

Universal Records is involved in a lawsuit over notices it sent to YouTube for a video that Universal admits was permissable under Fair Use. Myspace unveiled a bot last year that complies with all take down notices; said bot also has a stay down funtion, so that even if removed content was posted legally, it's impossible for another user to repost it. And now, in the midst of a lawsuit over some anonymous comments left at Autoadmit.com, legal scholars are suggesting that take down notices be applied to comment boards:

One idea gaining traction among legal thinkers would be DMCA-like legislation permitting victims of defamation to issue take-down notices, asking ISPs and websites to remove false and damaging user posts. If the service complies, it would be immune to any legal action.

But that regime hasn't worked entirely well with copyright -- false DMCA notices have been used by everyone from the Pentagon to the psychic Uri Geller to remove content from YouTube.

Universal—which insisted it had a right to send a take down notice because a toddler dancing to 29 seconds of a Prince song violated the principle of copyright—is the most public case of take down notice abuse, but it's not the only one. As part of a study on illegal bit torrent downloading, reasearchers at the University of Washington discovered that the Recording Industry Association of America, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America are incapable of accurately targeting the correct IP addresses of illegal file sharers. And who would have guessed that the number of take down notices sent to colleges doesn't actually correlate with traffic figures for file sharing?

If fair use notices were used to moderate comment boards, what would keep a tech-savvy restaurant owner from purging the InterWebz of negative reviews of his restaurant under the guise of attacking libel? (A mildly concerning hypothetical, but terrifying to some of us foodies all the same.) On the bright side, no more douchebag insults.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    I know... that I'm funnier... than Michael C. Moynihan.

  • ||

    The existence of take-down notices as shields from copyright infringement liability is a Good Thing. YouTube couldn't possibly exist in anything approaching its current form if it were liable for every copyright violation someone might upload.

    A similar mechanism vis a vis message boards would be all pro and no con. You can freely ignore take down notices if you want, if you think the comment in question is not libelous.

  • T||

    Who was the lawyer for the EFF that had her video on fair use taken down by NFL Films? Anybody remember that, or is it just me?

    The problem is that the system is ripe for abuse. I can sling out assertions of infringement all day long for little to no cost. If a lawsuit is filed after the counter-notification, I have no recourse but to respond to the lawsuit even if my use is covered under the fair use exemptions. Who wanst to get dragged into court over a fair use claim? Far easier to take the content down. It gives the claimed copyright holder way too much power, but that's probably considered a feature in the age of Disney written copyright laws.

  • ||

    @Occam's toothbrush

    The existence of take-down notices as shields from copyright infringement liability is a Good Thing. YouTube couldn't possibly exist in anything approaching its current form if it were liable for every copyright violation someone might upload.

    A similar mechanism vis a vis message boards would be all pro and no con. You can freely ignore take down notices if you want, if you think the comment in question is not libelous.



    Except you know that's not how it's going to work. Sure, sites like Reason aren't going to care (right guys?), but there are a lot of sites out there that are going to take stuff down. Like say... google.com (who also happens to own Youtube) taking down such letters they recieve about materials posted on blogger.com? Or News Corp. taking down stuff posted on MySpace?

  • Mike Riggs||

    A good thing (maybe) when they're used correctly, one of the criteria for which is, "A statement by the owner that it has a good faith belief that there is no legal basis for the use of the materials complained of."

    Typing an artist's name into YouTube's search engine and then sending take down notices for all the results is bureaucratic waste.

  • ||

    T and Andrew,

    Yes, the system is open to abuse by copyright holders, but the question is, is it better or worse than the alternative. The alternative isn't a copyright-free world, the alternative is media company legal depts sending out C&D letters all day threatening lawsuits rather than TDNs.

  • Waterhouse||

    Yes, the system is open to abuse by copyright holders, but the question is, is it better or worse than the alternative. The alternative isn't a copyright-free world, the alternative is media company legal depts sending out C&D letters all day threatening lawsuits rather than TDNs.

    Websites are required by law to comply with takedown notices; a lawyer-written cease and desist letter doesn't have the same power. Everyone's free to ignore a cease and desist letter unless the claimant actually goes to the trouble of getting a judge to sign off on it. Which introduces costs that prevent media companies from handing out legal C&D's all over the place and forces them to demonstrate that the material in question actually infringes on their copyright, which isn't required for a DMCA takedown notice.

  • Waterhouse||

    By the way, I recently had a false copyright claim made on a video I put on Youtube. I shot the video myself and it included no third-party clips, images, or music.

  • Waterhouse||

    Oh, and get with the times, Mike. lolcats stopped being funny when people started calling them "lolcats".

  • Warty||

    Lolcats never stopped being funny, it's just that a lot of shitty lolcats pictures were made after they became popular.

  • Mike Riggs||

    Speak for yourself, Waterhouse. I can't make it through the day without some bacon

  • ||

    Lolcats never stop being awesome when you can easily make your own:
    http://kscakes.com/LolCats/

    Like seriously, I send lolcats instead of IM's right now, for everything.

  • ||

    On the bright side, no more douchebag insults.

    Mike Riggs has to be the worst columnist this fucking magazine has ever hired.

    You guys should collect these things somewhere on the website.

  • ||

    http://tinyurl.com/6hmfo6

  • Somewhat Off Topic||

    Given the graphic, I just had to remind people of the LOLCAT Bible Translation Project.
    http://www.lolcatbible.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement