A few months ago, we told you the story of Oliver Hotham, a British journalist whose reporting on Straight Pride UK was silenced by a spurious DMCA takedown request from the hate group. Now the Hotham's web host, WordPress, has filed a complaint in court against Straight Pride. This may be the case that helps finally fix our broken copyright law.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is invoked hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of times a day to take down internet content that copyright owners think infringes on their property. Buried within those takedown requests are plenty of legitimate claims. But there's also a lot of censorship in disguise. In the case of Hotham and Straight Talk UK, the group filed a takedown request claiming that using press statements violated their copyright, which of course is ridiculous. Still, the companies receiving these requests are inundated, and so WordPress took down Hotham's post.
Luckily, there are sections in the United States Copyright Law which provide a way for people to sue for damages and legal fees when somebody knowingly misrepresents the material facts of a case. And so WordPress has teamed up with Hotham, as well as the victims of another false DMCA request, to take down the trolls.
WordPress' blog post by Paul Sieminski is pitch perfect. "The DMCA system gives copyright holders a powerful and easy to use weapon: the unilateral right to issue a takedown notice that a website operator (like [WordPress parent) Automattic) must honor or risk legal liability," he writes. There are no legal consequences like fines if people lie, but victims have the right to sue, and as the post points out, it's our responsibility to fight back:
Until there are some teeth to the copyright laws, it's up to us – websites and users, together – to stand up to DMCA fraud and protect freedom of expression. Through these suits, we'd like to remind our users that we're doing all we can to combat DMCA abuse on WordPress.com….and most importantly, remind copyright abusers to think twice before submitting fraudulent takedown notices. We'll be watching, and are ready to fight back.