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.