This is so exciting! I’ve been accused of violating Federal law, and I feel like an international fugitive. Jason Bourne, here I come!
Have you ever heard of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act? I had, but I assumed that it was related to copying movies and downloading music and such.
Last Thursday, I received an email with the following subject line: “Blogger blog takedown notification”. With that odd wording, I initially thought it was a phishing attempt, but I ventured to open it anyway. Blogger wouldn’t really take down my blog, would they? Turns out it was sort of, but not quite, what it said: a notification from Blogger that they had taken down one of my posts. The email stated that they’d been notified that “certain content in your blog is alleged to infringe upon the copyrights of others,” and indicated the specific post in question.
The email offered a website where I could go to find the actual complaint, but as of today, more than a week after the email, this particular complaint still has not shown up on the site. Fortunately, the post in question – December 9, 2011 – only contained one photo, so it was easy to figure out where the complaint came from. I’d posted a picture of a German bread, with a prominent link to the source. You can go here to see the post if you are interested. I don’t think anyone much cares what I said 3 months ago, but for the sake of continuity I deleted the image and republished the post.
I went back to the source to look for use restrictions, and realized that the site is in German. Aha! I would not have gone to all the effort of trying to read the whole thing just for a simple photo. My mistake. After translating and paging through the volumes of legal language, I now understand that this particular site does not allow ANY use of their images under ANY circumstances EVER. “Not even for a fee,” it says!
So, I think this means I not only violated a US law, but possibly some German or EU law as well. This gets better and better! The CIA is probably vying with Interpol to get my phones tapped, right now.
But going back to the email from Blogger (really Google): why did they take the liberty of reverting my post to Draft status, rather than waiting for me to respond to the notification? Because the DMCA allows online service providers to attain “safe harbor” from litigation by blocking access to or removing the material in question. I can understand Google’s position – if the copyright owner were to sue for infringement, would they be more likely to sue me, a penniless individual, or Google with its deep pockets?
On the negative side of DMCA, however, there are no police, judge, or jury over this process of complaint and takedown. Anyone can file an infringement claim against any individual or company, and force them to either remove the content or go through miles of red tape to file a counter-claim. This creates the potential for people to file nuisance claims, and it’s likely that this is already happening. This could have a significant negative impact on individuals and small businesses.
My explanation here is short and oversimplified, but what are your thoughts on having Google or other service providers removing content from people’s blogs? Have you received any violation notices, and if so, how did you respond?