Wrap Up: DMCA Trickery, Mob Justice & More

Previously on this site, I would do weekly wrap-ups of news stories that, while important, didn’t really warrant a full article. I stopped doing that in a bid to focus on the issues specifically pointed at bloggers and other Webmasters.

With that being said, several new stories have cropped up that deserve mention as the issues they raise do pertain directly to ones handled by those posting their works on line. If this column is popular, I might move it to Friday’s and make it a regular event.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the stories that have been impacting copyright on the Web.

False DMCA Notice Results in YouTube Takedown

Mashable reported that a fifteen-year-old teen from Australia filed a false DMCA notice against YouTube as a prank. In the notice, he pretended to be a representative from the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) and requested the removal of hundreds of clips from the show “Chaser’s War on Everything”.

However, ABC has repeatedly stated that they support users uploading clips of the show to YouTube and elsewhere. Nonetheless, the notice resulted in the removal of hundreds of videos and many YouTube users that had posted the clips were sent stern warnings about violating copyright.

ABC, in a statement, said the following:

Everyone does dumb stuff when they are 15. But what was of concern to us was the fact that YouTube was sending copyright infringement notices to people who have been uploading Chaser clips to YouTube, threatening to shut down their access to YouTube if they persist that’s what was worrying to us.

The DMCA worked exactly as designed. A notice was filed, the works were removed and they can now be put back. However, what is scary, and what the prankster probably did not think about, is that he has opened himself up to legal action.

As per the DMCA, he had to swear, under the penalty of perjury, that the information was accurate when it obviously was not. False DMCA cases in the past, including the Michael Crook case and the Diebold case, dealt harsh penalties to the party abusing the DMCA.

However, the sheer geography of this matter makes such a suit unlikely. Still, if one of the parties that were the subject of the takedown had the ability and the desire to do so, they could easily file suit against either the prankster or his guardians, possibly to a very unsightly end.

Premature Mob Justice

Earlier this month, several reports on the Web surfaces saying that GSC Game World’s recently released shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. ripped much of its artwork from other commercial games including Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. The story took off almost immediately, even hitting the front page of Digg, and even prompted a comment from Todd Hollshead, the CEO of Id Software, the makers of the Doom series.

I’ve seen a post on a web forum that claims DOOM3 assets are used in another game, but we’ve been working hard on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars as well as our own internal project and have not had the time to fully investigate or otherwise verify that the claim is true. Only from what I’ve seen on the Web, it’s concerning. However, it may turn out to be nothing. Nevertheless, it would be improper to make any decision about a course of action until we find out whether the claim is true, and what assets from DOOM3, if any, have potentially been used.

However, the fury was for nothing. It was almost immediately discovered that the artwork was actually purchased from a third party, Marlin Studios, which makes texture packs specifically for video games and movies. The use was both licensed and for the exact purpose it was intended.

All in all, it is just another example of why mob justice is generally a bad idea. Often times, the full story is not known until after the snap decisions are made.

Strong Bad Does Copyright

Finally, on a lighter note, the most recent Strong Bad Email on Homestar Runner pokes fun at the current copyright climate.

In the episode, Strong Bad and his cohort/lawyer The Cheat threaten to “sue” the email submitter for violating their “copyrights” by producing a comic strip of them. They also relive a time they used water balloons to file a similar “suit” against Homestar himself when he attempted sell Strong Bad flavored water.

It’s great fun for anyone interested in copyright humor, however, it does make me want to consider enlisting the Cheat’s services in my consulting practice. A briefcase full of water balloons might make a great deterrent to scrapers…

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